New Brunswick, NJ
“Thinking Pictures” draws on one of the great strengths of the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union. It presents the visually provocative objects that distinguish Moscow Conceptualism from the forms associated with its namesake, the canonical oeuvres of American and British conceptual artists, in particular. This exhibition focuses on more than 40 individual artists and several collectives who lived and worked in Soviet Moscow from the 1960s to the 1990s. They were concerned with the essential task of creating an audience in an environment that lacked galleries, critics, and a viable art market but had its own institutional framework—one that privileged painting (Socialist Realism).
The exhibition presents a diverse range of artworks by several generations of artists who responded to the experience of ideological conformity (and its dissolution) as it had been enforced within official art academies. Oriented toward irony and parody, but also toward serious speculation about the place of the individual in Soviet society and Western art history, artists engaged in a dialogue with the priorities of official culture on the one hand, and those of modernist, including conceptual, art in the West, on the other. They challenged the hierarchical ordering of media that characterized late Soviet modernity by redefining the role of visual thinking in the creation of installations and albums, as well as a process of self-archiving, to create a richly allusive visual and performative culture. The term “thinking pictures” (umozritel’naia zhivopis’) was coined by artists in the late 1970s to capture the new role played by painting in the post-conceptual era.
“Thinking Pictures” introduces contemporary audiences to these artists’ historical gambit and sheds light on the complex role visual art plays in the viewer’s own lives. Although a number of exhibitions devoted to the art of the Moscow Conceptualist circle have been organized in Europe and Russia over the past decade, “Thinking Pictures” is the first in the United States since Perspectives of Conceptualism in 1991, which traveled extensively and ultimately found a home at Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art. The Zimmerli exhibition features important works by major artists recognized widely in the art world (Eric Bulatov Ilya Kabakov, Komar and Melamid, Viktor Pivovarov), as well as such others at the center of this movement as Yuri Albert, Yuri Leiderman, Igor Makarevich, and Irina Nakhova. An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website