Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Not everyone will be taken into the future. 21 November 2017
Not knowing a great deal about contemporary Russian artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. I was wonderfully surprised to find their current exhibition at the Tate Modern to be a wonderfully immersive journey and compelling story of two artists who’ve challenged convention and perceptions over the past 60 years.
Known for their large scale conceptual installations and use of fictional personas their work challenges and critiques the conventions of former Soviet visual culture contrasting the drab reality of life under the Soviet regime with amplified propaganda images of overly optimistic depictions of Soviet life.
The exhibition begins with a focus on Ilya who worked as an artist outside the official parameters of the Soviet art establishment during the 1960s up to the beginnings of Perestroika in the late 1980s where he moved to New York and began collaborating with Emilia.
For me the show maps a progressive creative journey that twists and turns with the most unexpected images, forms and experiences. The earlier rooms which focus on Ilya’s fictional characters and stark contrasts between the propaganda and reality of Soviet life are fascinating and visually disruptive. More formal state sanctioned imagery is forced almost brutally into social realist depictions of Russian people appearing like huge collages.
The later rooms are really immersive in the way both artists create conceptual spaces and narratives that engage and challenge perceptions. ‘The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment’ is a visual sensation. Raw and intense it also creates a humorous story through the rudimentary human catapult at the centre of the space. In contrast ‘How to meet an Angel’ presents a more elegant and refined situation while still maintaining an endearing humour.
If you’re in the Bankside area do check out the show. It’ll charm, surprise and hopefully enlighten.
The exhibition runs until 28 January 2018