Women at Work: Subverting the Feminine in Post-Soviet Russia
13 July – 15 September 2018
White Space Gallery presents Women at Work: Subverting the Feminine in Post-Soviet Russia, which brings to the forefront the work of five women artists from the contemporary Russian art scene: Tatiana Antoshina, Vita Buivid, Olga Tobreluts, Gluklya, and Lera Nibiru. The influence of Antoshina, Buivid, Tobreluts and Gluklya on Russian art since the 90s has been significant, reflected in their representation at numerous international biennales and solo shows at major museums, as well by their presence in exhibitions at White Space Gallery through the last decade. These more established figures are joined by Lera Nibiru, coming from a younger artistic generation, whose work will be shown for the first time at White Space Gallery.
Collectively, the artists presented in this exhibition offer an antonym to a dominant post-Soviet artistic landscape practically synonymous with its leading male figures. Their works provide us with an alternative narrative of contemporary Russian art, one rendered not in the image of man, but in the image of woman. One which intervenes in and adjudicates the new canon of contemporary Russian art. Utilising similar conceptual strategies as their male contemporaries, including taking on a humorous and ironic disposition, recycling motifs and materials from both popular culture and the history of art, and maintaining an ambivalent relationship with the former Soviet Union, these artists have sought to subversively challenge conventional notions of sexuality, femininity and gender in the post-Soviet Russia. Their practices do not only comment on the changing nature of the current Russian identity under technocratic and authritarian capitalism, but also on the changing nature of femaleRussian subjectivities in such a present. Though their work tends to refuse an explicitly oppositional feminist position, the artists utilise their own subjectivities as women as gestural procedures in their work. Tatiana Anthoshina’s series Museum of a Woman encapsulates this subversive tendency. Ironic and playful, Anthoshina’s photographic series inverts the ‘male gaze’, rearticulating the scenes from Western art history (including Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur L’herbe and Ingres’ The Turkish Bath) by replacing the figure of the female nude with that of the naked man. The erotic and the mythological gives way to bathos; the canonical gives way to kitsch. The ‘museum for men’, populated by the objectifying representations of Manet and Ingres, gives way instead for a ‘museum of woman’, as it were. With simple mockery, Antoshina reclaims the exhibition space for the female artist, a space where she may grapple with patriarchal modernity.
Each of the artists utilise various strategies of staging to establish a visual language which speaks to their subjective experiences as Russian women artists practising in the post-Soviet context. This, in fact, is the point of departure for Women at Work: Subverting the Feminine in Post-Soviet Russia, which seeks to emphasise the role of the artists as active agents in the Russian art context with the power to transform it.
Tatiana Antoshina (b. 1956) is a Russian multimedia artist whose work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale (56th Venice Biennale, State Pavilion of Mauritius, 2015), Moscow Biennale and the Asian Art Biennale. Antoshina’s work has also been the subject of numerous solo shows in Russia and beyond, including ‘Museum of a Woman’ held at White Space Gallery in 2004. Photographs from this series are displayed in Women at Work: Subverting the Feminine in Post-Soviet Russiaalongside a rare image entitled ‘Queen of the Night’.
Born in Dnepropetrovsk in 1962, Ukraine, Buivid now lives and works in Moscow. Initially working with photography and image-based works, Buivid has extended her practice across watercolour, oil, collage and textiles. Buivid’s works are now included in the collections of the Moscow House of Photography, The State Russian Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki. She is prominent in the wider tendency of Russian conceptual practice to recycle motifs and materials from the former Soviet Union, Buivid’s ‘Empire of Clothes’ nostalgically captures different eras from the history of the Soviet Union. Taking the form of a ‘junk-fashion shoot’ the photographs perform an archival function. Creating costumes are composed from the collection of fashion designer Petlyvra, described as the ‘King of Junk’. Buivid retrieves and repurposes items from a culture which has otherwise become outmoded and obsolete since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Formerly of ‘Glukyla and Tsaplya’, Gluklya (Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya, b. 1969) lives and works in St. Petersburg and Amsterdam. Gluklya founded the ‘Factory of Found Clothes’ in 1996 and became an active participant in Chto Delat (‘What is to be Done?’) from 2003. Gluklya has been exhibited extensively internationationally and domestically, and was included in the exhibition ‘All the World’s Futures’ curated by Okwui Enwezor at the 56th Venice Biennale. She has otherwise exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art Moscow (2014), Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid (2011) and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2010). In this exhibition White Space Gallery displays a ‘shroud’ dedicated by Glukyla to her former artistic mentor Timur Novikov, whose work provided inspiration in the 90s St. Petersburg artistic scene. Gluklya uses textiles as a conceptual link between the art world and the wider public, allowing for the communication of meanings which are at once private and public.
Olga Tobreluts (b.1970), whose early works with digital and computer art led Bruce Sterling to call her ‘Helen of Troy equipped with a video camera and a computer’, has been central to the post-Soviet art scene since the mid 1990s. From 2003, Tobreluts moved away from her use of digital technologies, returning to the use of traditional painting techniques and experimentations with pigmentation and colour. Tobreluts’ work is now held in the Word & Image department of the Victoria and Albert Museum.Here, Tobreluts work ‘A Prisoner in the Caucuses’ (2010) is presented as photographic series. This work parodies Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus ‘Triadisches Ballett’. Tobreluts’ piece shows choreographed scenes which border the absurd and the profound, comically appropriating Schlemmer’s meditations on movement, space and form through the slapstick narrative of ‘Fat’ and ‘Thin’.
Lera Nibiru (b. 1981) graduated from the St. Petersburg State University of Cinema and Television with a degree in Animation (2003). Part of an emergent generation of young women Russian artists, she lives and works in Moscow. Nibiru has twice been nominated for the Kandinsky prize and her work is held in collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. White Space Gallery is showing for the first time a series of drawings and collages taken from her Cosmos series, which draws influence from the work of Pavel Pepperstein and his brand of ‘Psychedelic Realism’. Nibiru self-describes her multimedia pieces as straddling the serious and the silly, which can simultaneously remind oneself of childish dreams and ‘deep sensual phantasms’.
White Space Gallery, Cultural Dialogue. 6 Pall Mall East, London SW1Y 5BF. Entrance from Whitcomb Street. Tube: Embankment. Exit: National Gallery
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 5pm. Gallery will be closed for Summer Holidays 4 – 28 August