THE MOSCOW TIMES

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And people are ugly, but funny and cozy,
And occupation is troublesome and difficult,
Useless and Ephemeral.
The world is God-consecrated.
Constantin Zvezdochotov, 2004

Constantin Zvezdochotov appeared in the history of Russian art as a «new wave» (new wave), which came in the late 1970s to replace the conceptual seriousness of the Moscow underground. Zvezdochotov and his friends created the group «Mukhomor», having two poles, from which they repelled: on the right — an academic education of art institutes, to the left — the already designated «fathers»-conceptualists, first of all Ilya Kabakov and Andrey Monastyrsky. Anti-academicism, of course, was stronger — Zvezdochotov still names artists who graduated from higher art institutions, «people poisoned with pinene». Thereafter, the artist's art was based on the shores that were the most distant from the professionally «artistic», — it was comics, kitsch, amateurism and folk art. All this gave a special exotic to his «new wave», which was fueled by the colossal energy of resistance to the officialdom. Returning to those Perestroika times, the artist claims that the main impulse that moved him and his associates was the desire «that art should prevail. Here it won!».

It is necessary to say that throughout the stellar career, Constantin Zvezdochotov always kept his adherence to the original creative principles with extraordinary breadth and variety of creative techniques. When the USSR collapsed and state orders for artists along with it, Anti-academism (Anti-socialist realism) lost its relevance and it was replaced by anti-elite, rejection of fashion and club life in his work. At the same time, from the comics, which are no longer rare and not forbidden, Zvezdochotov turns to the archive monster — the Soviet caricature from the «Crocodile» magazine — and manages to make it live and relevant.

Zvezdochotov’s art, like in the early years, continues to swear allegiance to heavy and unenlightened world that is waving behind the ship of the Russian intellectual life. Is this a pity to an average man, the so-called common man? It is not so simple to grasp the author's attitude to the wobbling, whining, drinking and eating — in a word, idiotic characters. Zvezdochotov never accompanies the image with an integral narrative-explanation, it is always some scraps and individual scenes recognized due to their typicality. But according to the law of the humorous genre, some of his types are not typical at all. Here and in this picture there is no loneliness of a «white crow», as well as the ominous role of the «black cat», claimed in the title of the work. And there is a scene of a long-drawn drinking at the last stage. Men are decent, in costumes, but, apparently, they went through adventures and losses of drunkenness. Their stormy phase has ended, replaced by quiet drunkenness and remorse in the things they have done. They are no longer in a restaurant, but on its backyard, near garbage cans, where the cooks carry slops. This is also a restaurant, but already for the animals, and here there is a fast paced life in its turn.

In Zvezdochotov’s paintings, the action and the characters are a sea of fools, the entropy of the world, with which the artist enters into confrontation with the help of eternal and great weapon — laughter and benevolence. A crooked mirror of a caricature saves, like a Perseus shield, from the abundance of human weaknesses. V

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