Vladimir Grig: AL GALLERY

Article excerpt

Today, Russians approach the legacy of the USSR with a growing historical distance and a peculiar sense of introspection. They perceive it in a less conflicted manner than they once did, acknowledging the playfulness of its mass culture while, at the same time, linking its graphic language to social and cultural (rather than political) transformations. A fascination with the Soviet past might also reflect the renewed upsurge of Slavophilism, which encourages Russians to admire their national heroes and to savor the uniqueness of their experience, closing the gap between grim reality and a profound mysticism, quickly resurgent after the fall of Communism.

In his exhibition "Kustrakira over the River"--whose title refers to a famous patriotic song of the Soviet period--Vladimir Grig challenges both nostalgic yearnings for the mythical Russian past and adversarial attitudes toward the Soviet era. In five large acrylic paintings included in this show, he recycles images associated with the 1960s USSR and presents them as products of a mass culture that, although rooted in local experience, reflected a widespread fascination with the lifestyle of the West. In the video Vasek Karasev and a Spy, 2008-1 I, Grig returned to the aesthetics of official book illustration and design under Communism, which interest him also as an influence on Moscow Con-ceptualism in the 1970s. The work's protagonist, Vasek Karasev, is a smiling young pioneer modeled on canonical characters from Soviet children's literature, whom the artist charged with a mission to spy on Soviet citizens as they go about their daily lives. Karasev's portrait was featured on the cover of an old board game, an interactive video of which was projected onto the gallery's floor. But the idealized pioneer's main mission seemed to be the representation of popular culture--whose graphic language and aesthetics Grig has appropriated in many of his works--rather than watching over his fellow Russians. …