Persona. Image. Time. Human Representation in Art: from Modernism to the Present-day
September 18 – December 13, 2009
Organizer: The Ekaterina Cultural Foundation
Project idea: Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin
Curator: Alexandra Kharitonova
Exhibition design: Konstantin Larin
The history of depiction of the human body and face - from the first anthropomorphic pictures and archaic masks to contemporary experiments in painting, sculpture, performance, video art and installation - reflects the self-interpretation of humans, their life and the way the society identifies itself and its culture.
Unlike in Western art, where the image of man, glorified by the Antique Art and Renaissance artists, became an essential component of the "cultural memory", Russia saw the first such images only in the 16th century in the shape of parsunas that turned into traditional portraits only in the early 18th century.
In Russian culture, more concerned about spirituality, the image of man (except the holy faces on icons and parsunas where the faces were similar to those on the icons) was tabooed and considered sinful for a long time. Nudes are quite rare in Russian art, and have a certain air of restraint and prudency that does not allow (with rare exceptions) any free interpretation, exploration and experience of the theme of corporality, so typical of Western art.
In early 20th century, the traditional system of genres underwent considerable changes and transformations to mark the beginning of a new era. The image of an avant-garde artist creating a new artistic universe came to the fore. The image of man, be it a portrait, a figure or a group, transforms into a laboratory for experiments with the artistic form.
The beginning of this new era pronounces a withdrawal from the post-Renaissance humanistic concept of art which considered man to be the main object of representation. Contemporary artists view the image of man as a sort of material the artist can use to vividly demonstrate his or her artistic strategy in an open dialogue with philosophic and general cultural context of the time and the art of the previous eras.
The authors of the idea and the project's curator wished to identify the main development trend of the theme, compare works from different eras, cultures and styles, demonstrate interesting parallels and contrasts, the dialogue between Western and Russian art, as well as to show the existing image of man in the contemporary artistic discourse, inspired by the history of art.
The exhibition was structured both thematically and chronologically. It was divided into three major parts: Russian art of the late 19th — early 20th centuries, Russian art from 1917 to 1985, and Russian and Western art from the mid-1980s to 2008.
There were several themes in each period, dedicated to particular trends and shown the changes in the artistic approach to interpreting the image of man during a certain era: From Academic Art to Modernism, From Avant-garde to Soviet Art, Other Art, Image of Man in the Era of Mass Media and Globalization.
One of the focal points of the exhibition was the portrayal of a human face. There were several sections dedicated to portraits and the significant changes that have been taking place in this traditional genre during the 20th and 21st centuries.
The exhibition presented works from one of the largest private collections, accumulated over the course of 15 years. We hope that visitors to the exhibition discovered new names in the fascinating world of contemporary art.
The exhibition was a part of the special projects program of the 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art