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From Eagle to Angel part 1

December 11th, 2015 by Willem Jan Renders

In Moscow I tried the eagle wings by Andrey Filippov

Earlier this year in Moscow I saw the exhibition of Andrey Filippov in the Ekaterina Foundation. A major theme in his work is Russian identity and on the wall he had painted the wings of the Russian eagle. Of course I could not resist the temptation to try them. Ever since the Steve Miller song I wanted to fly like an eagle and I flew all the way to the nest of the American eagle. At JFK airport the customs officer looked a bit suspiciously at me when he saw the different Russian and Belorussian visa in my passport but he let me in nevertheless after I told him that I came for a conference at Columbia University. But that’s tomorrow.

Today I took a walk to see the skyline from the High Line. This walking strip above the ground led me from the Hudson Bay to Chelsea where all the big galleries are. I visited a few of them and then went to the Pace Gallery ( where Ilya and Emilia Kabakov show the paintings of their new collaborative series made in the last two years. It’s a big opening with big paintings in the Big Apple and everybody is there of course. Here’s a first impression of what is on show.

All brand new…


The paint on these huge paintings is still fresh but what they show takes us back to two totally different historical periods not only in subject matter but also in style. We see for instance a citation of the swirling baroque figures of ‘Moses Striking the Rock’ (1653) by the unknown Genovese painter Valerio Casello combined with what seems a painted photograph of two boys in the Soviet era. The Kabakovs have used this kind of ‘collage’ before, for instance in the series of Dark Paintings that were shown a few years ago in Hanover, but never so painterly and free as we see here. This biblical theme even gets a touch of Soviet painting and the juxtaposition with a fifties snapshot makes you wonder if these boys have discovered something as miraculous as the water that Moses found for his thirsty people.

Valerio Casello, Moses Striking the Rock, 1653, oil on canvas, 197 x 261 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris


Ilya and Emila Kabakov, The Two Times, 2014, 190,5 x 284,5 cm, Pace Gallery New York












The Six Paintings about the Temporary Loss of Eye Sight (2015) is another new series. These paintings made me think of a certain theory of visual perception (was it the one by Gibson?) that defines the visual field as consisting of little dots. Visual information is consequently considered as information in the light. Following this theory loosing your eye sight could imply that the dots in the visual field turn all white. In these paintings you see the visual field under attack and crumble as it were. The dots, these round snowflakes in a slightly irregular pattern, try to prevent you from seeing what you can see. Here we discover the other side of Kabakov paintings: the linear one. The lines delineating these figures are all red. It seems they try to fixate the visual.

The Six Paintings on the Temporary Loss of Eyesight (They are Painting the Boat), 2015, oil on canvas, 111,8 x 195,6 cm, Pace Gallery, New York

In a small room of the gallery the 1997 edition of Mathematical Gorsky was shown. It is the seventh album from Kabakov’s 10 Characters series: beautifully illustrated stories about all kinds of strange people. Mathematical Gorsky is a person specializing in a special branch of mathematics: series. He discovers that some series under certain conditions can generate new ones. We see some of these series in typical Kabakov drawings. 
In some other paintings the dots themselves also contain visual information. Here below are some examples. 
I was invited for a dinner after the opening but I declined because of my jetlag. I’d better go to sleep in the city that never does.

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