Power Lines I, graphite on paper, 1986, 21 x 25 inches, private collection
Universalism in "3 + 3: Washington - Moscow"
(selected excerpts from a review of the 1991 exhibit at the Central Exhibition Hall, Moscow Artists' Center)
By Vitaly Patsyukov
Today we are once again addressing such issues as the interdependence of Russian and Western art, the viability of regional culture, and the emergence of global artistic thinking. "3 + 3: Washington - Moscow," the exhibition staged earlier this year at the Moscow Artists' Center, Russia's best showroom, adds new dimensions to the discussion. Gathered together under one roof, Rob Evans, Rachel Greene, Janis Goodman, Svetlana Kalistratova, Yelena Keller and Andrey Grositzky asserted quite boldly that no longer can any single language, any single method seriously claim to fully capture reality, to supplant all others. The essence of what is going on in contemporary culture was revealed in this small-scale, "intimate" exhibition, which had the quality of polyphony achieved by a well-blended ensemble. A new era is dawning, the era of universalism.
Universalism, as this team sees it, does not imply intermixing or eruditely juxtaposing different languages, it is not a kind of cultural esperanto, but a momentary illumination uncovering in the innermost of humanity its integral indivisible self. The artists, both American and Russian, present to the audience a new radical, ecological consciousness, art as a liberating ritual, whose heyday they hope to see not in the distant future but in the immediate present. This culture is free from the usual elitism of the avant-garde, though it does indeed use its codes; it is utterly democratic in its convictions, addressing the widest audience, provoking them into making full contact with the object of art. The new culture displays a clear link with archaic folklore (Rachel Greene, Yelena Keller), with the traditions of magic realism (Evans, Grositzky and Janis Goodman), where the impossible becomes possible, seeking revelation and spontaneity (Svetlana Kalistratova). In short, this culture is positively fundamental, with its roots lying in the pre-Renaissance mentality. It takes us back to our childhood, with its bygone fascination; it produces a healing effect; it diagnoses the modern world, weary of technological and cultural revolutions; it heralds the decline of another era in history. For this culture, the world is not final and monolithic, it constitutes the extension of human nature, where the cosmic comes into one with the everyday earthly reality. This culture is wide open to all manner of metamorphosis, it embraces open space, infinite time, its characters are collective, flowing like waterdrops into the ocean of our oneness. And here, Russian life with its undivided integrity and vast spaces, its mysteries and paradoxes, rhymes so amazingly with American openness to other peoples pain and suffering (Rachel Greenes compositions dedicated to the tragedy of Chernobyl), opens anew against the backdrop of Evans' and Goodman's metaphysical spaces, in unity with the superhistorical context in which man and mankind exist. All the spiritual reference-points used by the "Washington - Moscow" artists are set by this uiversal structure, these new geographical propositions renouncing the present-day political map of the world, ushering in not just a new notion of plasticity, but a new code of ethics as well.
Rob Evans introduces into his concepts a strong intellectual element, asserting the space of his compositions as a spiritual field, filing it, as he puts it himself, with "power lines." His compositions bring to mind sequences from metaphysical cinema, where the interior blends naturally into the outside world, the two constituting a single energy field. Within his "harsh" plastic system, close to hyper-realism, he transforms organically the visible into the invisible, he finds a link between the real and the fantastical, he perceives the depth of unity where everything is interrelated and the depth of loneliness where everyone becomes oneself. The feeling of anxiety in an ordinary apartment, anxiety coming from the outside, seeping through the walls, watching us from the TV screen - recognizable in Moscow as well as in Washington. Without this loneliness, there would be no freedom of communion with the whole, no transgression of the borders of one's own autonomous existence; no transformation of the art of the soil, reflecting life in an American suburb, into the art of the road, understood in Russia. Rob Evans reminds us once again how much more powerful the mytho-poetical space is, compared with the ordinary, profane one. In this sense his artistic space becomes experimental, a proving-ground for building and testing notions, inconceivable elsewhere.
Universalism proposed by the "3 + 3" team is not a kind of utopia from H. Hesse's "Game of Glass Beads;" it is the reality of contemporary artistic and philosophical quest. Universalism is the fullness of humanity's communication with itself. By gaining control over its own existence, today the human race as a whole becomes a human being; for the first time it becomes a self-communicating unit. It addresses itself in every language ever conceived by any nation or age.
Vitaly Patsyukov is a prominent Russian art critic, curator and writer. He currently is curator at the National Centre for Contemporary Arts under the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture and is a member of the Advising Board at the Department of Fine Arts of the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture.