Igor Makarevich and Elena Yelagina. Countdown
Елена Елагина, «Детское», 1987 / Elena Yelagina. The Childish, 1987
Елена Елагина, “Пища будущего”, 2012 / Elena Yelagina. Foods of the Future, 2012
Елена Елагина, “Личинка ручейника”, 2002 / Elena Yelagina. Caddisfly Larva, 2002
Игорь Макаревич, «Красный квадрат», 2004 / Igor Makarevich. Red Square, 2003
Игорь Макаревич, “Портрет Буратино”, 2005 / Igor Makarevich. Portrait of Buratino, 2005
Date: November 11, 2020 —March 21, 2021

Curated by: Elena Selina

The Moscow Museum of Modern Art is happy to announce Countdown, a retrospective exhibition of Igor Makarevich and Elena Yelagina. The exposition features both solo and the most significant joint works of the artists. Igor Makarevich and Elena Yelagina see this exhibition as an opportunity to look back on their career and to take stock of the work done over the past thirty years.

Igor Makarevich and Elena Yelagina started working as co-authors in 1990 to create the now well known Closed Fish Exhibition. Both artists are considered part of the Moscow Conceptualism. Makarevich and Yelagina approach their work analytically — they know how to handle archives and it is often historical documents that trigger a work or an installation, as it happened with the Closed Fish Exhibition (1990), Life in the Snow (1994) and many others. The work of the artists is inspired by literature and utopian ideas of the XX century — from the theory of resurrection developed by Russian philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov to ideas of Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin and other members of the Russian avant-garde. The artists themselves expressed the need to work with literature in many interviews considering it creatively encouraging.

Artists share many interests, having similar biographies (both graduated from the same art school) and being part of the post war generation with its problems and questions. They tried to come to terms with Stalin’s repressions, to grasp utopian ideas and to restore ties with avant-garde movements. Both of the authors had their own development as Moscow Conceptualists — from semantic ‘objects of neutral gender’ (Yelagina) to the theme of death (Makarevich). Before 1990 the artists had worked separately, helping each other with big public projects in the Olympic Village, Raikin Theatre and others. Makarevich graduated from VGIK (Moscow Film School) and had experience in theatre and television. Yelagina worked as Ernst Neizvestny’s apprentice and took lessons from Alice Poret, a close friend of Russian poets Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky. This experience combined with work in large projects allowed the artists to develop quality of their work and elaborate their own method which consists in conjoining the analytical study of an immaterial object with a thorough and detailed implementation. Discussing Fyodorov’s philosophy they inadvertently formulated their method: «the union of extreme mysticism and extreme materiality».

Makarevich and Yelagina can translate elusive multi-component meanings into a concise symbolic form juggling with them within each work and accurately visualizing philosophical insights. However, to fully grasp the work of these artists one need not forget the irony and self-irony that is present in many projects. The authors are able to work with characters almost merging with them in their existential experience (Borisov Museum by Makarevich) and then taking distance from them as much as possible (Laboratory of Great Making by Yelagina).

The Countdown does not follow a strict chronology. The exhibition is designed to follow the logic of cross-cutting themes, their interplay and intersections. The structure of the exhibition is similar to the ‘well-tempered clavier’, where each artistic statement logically follows and is closely related to the previous one, gradually expanding the artistic range with each new project.

The exposition begins with the installations that help to reconstruct the context and environment in which the artists worked — The Life Cycle, The CA Cycle and The Context. The hallmark works are displayed in the rooms named The Closed Fish Exhibition, Mushrooms of the Russian Avant-garde, The Russian Idea and others. The exhibition reaches its climax with The Russian Cosmism displayed in three consecutive rooms that feature works related to the Russian philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov. Solo works by the authors are also included in the show, i.e. Partial Change, Borisov Museum, Story of the Wardrobe (by Igor Makarevich), Laboratory of the Great making and Objects of Neutral Gender (by Elena Yelagina).

Inspired by one of the most famous projects by Makarevich and Yelagina the VII Moscow Biennale of the Young Art has launched its special project —The Closed Fish Exhibition. A Reconstruction — at the Voznesensky Centre, held from October 21 to November 22, 2020. The exhibition emerged from the collaboration between Yana Ginsburg and Dmitri Khvorostov from the Baza Institute of Contemporary Art. The Centre has planned for a number of accompanying events. The complete information about the exhibition can be found on the Voznesensky Centre website.



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