31 March 2015

Borderlands at GRAD was provocative and thrilling

GRAD (the Gallery of Russian Art and Design) is my sort of gallery. I have always found the exhibitions unusual and stimulating, and the gallery's location and size make it an ideal place to pop-in to during a lunch break.

And so it was that I found myself there on a Tuesday lunchtime.

The exhibition was called Borderlands and it looked at the boundary between art and political comment, something that the V&A has also been looking at recently in exhibitions like All of This Belongs to You, the difference being that this was from a Russian perspective and it is always good to see things from a different perspective.

The front of the exhibition space was dominated by a brick wall with wallpaper on one side. I've shown the wall paper side but viewed from the other side it was more obvious that the shape of the wall was that of Ukraine and that the section of bricks lying on the floor away from the wall was shaped like Crimea, the obvious point being that this part of the country had split away from the rest.

You could argue that Russia was in the wrong over the breakup of Ukraine, and many people have, so it was a provocative and brave act to include a piece like that in the exhibition. That was a good thing as art should be provocative and brave.

There was a series of photographs, displayed on lightboxes, of demonstrations in Moscow. These were made arty by the way that they were taken and presented. They were taken over a short period, 41 seconds apparently, and that gave them a smudged look as some of the elements of the picture smeared in dramatic lines.

Another effect, not that obvious here, was to squash parts of the photos along vertical lines in the way that things like Apple's Photo Booth do. In the big picture above this was done by the grey post on the left. I found the combination of the contrasting effects of smearing and squashing very effective.

The final element was the original scenes and and these were colourful and powerful because they were what they were, i.e. demonstrations with lots of people carrying banners in large public spaces.

I did not get the connection between these outfits and protest but that did not matter as I liked them anyway. I did get that these were not meant to be normal fashion outfits so there was a question there as to whether these were clothes, art, both or neither. I would call then Abstract Fashion in that they were Abstract Art produced using Fashion.

Treated as a form of Abstract Art it was easy to appreciate their use of shape and colour.

This was my fourth visit to GRAD in just over a year and I was thrilled every time. That's why I'll keep going there.

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