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  • Writer's pictureDimitri Ozerkov


When:   04.06.2016 - 18.09.2016

Where:  Hermitage, Saint-Petersburg, Russia

About 'Realisms' is an exhibition created by Contemporary art department of The State Hermitage Museum in cooperation with Gary Tatintsian Gallery, Simon Lee Gallery, and Halcyon Gallery. Exhibition features three contemporary artists: Mitch Griffiths, Tony Matelli, and Jim Shaw. Each of them work in different artistic techniques and deal with various aspects of reality. Mitch Griffiths (b. 1971, Nuneaton) is a British painter who finds his topics in contemporary art and his compositions in art history. While altarpieces and historical paintings of Old Masters used to transform experience of piety into palpable forms and attributes pieces by Griffiths, on the contrary, are portraying real and not always perfect contemporaries of the artist, imbuing the originally banal scenes with seriousness and epic force. Like Gustave Courbet’s Meeting, Griffiths’ works displayed at the exhibition elevate the mundane to the level of the ideal, deliberately overrating it. Tony Matelli (b. 1971, Chicago) is an American sculptor, a former assistant of Jeff Koons. Exhibition presents one of his most famous works, the hyperrealist sculpture 'F*ck’d (Couple)' (Gary Tatintsian Collection, USA). Matelli uses his unique technically innovative method to imitate the visceral poignancy and nature of sensual reality. His work recreates in concentrated form both the materially rigid psychophysical space of modernity and a subtle allusion to the story of the first humans expelled from Eden. The artist achieves this by working in an extremely lifelike manner, and using technology which was inaccessible to Hyperrealists of the last century, like Duane Hanson. Tony Matelli’s sculpture is a compelling witness to human search for a balance in chaos. Jim Shaw (b. 1952, Midland) is an American artist, an apprentice of John Baldessari, pioneer of Conceptual art. Jim Shaw searches for alternative ways of reflecting reality in all its diversity. He does not shy away from experimenting or mastering previously unknown genres and techniques. The artist’s endless ‘sleep of reason’ produced more and more Surrealist projects, which gave rise to a series of large-scale pieces, entitled ‘Left Behind’. The exhibition Realisms includes two works from this series (Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery, London/Hong Kong), which are painted over old cracked theatrical backdrops. Jim Shaw scrutinises the contemporary mythology of American society which forms the foundation of everyday reality for his compatriots. The three groups of art works represent different aspects of using realistic method involving various ways of dealing with visual reality. Artists work with their imagery in different ways: by building a pompous history, or by organizing an enigmatic theatre, or by creating horrible pictures. In General Staff Building, their works come in direct contact with art in permanent display of collections as well as create bridges to the opposite wing of the museum where classical paintings and sculptures are exhibited. Such a situation creates new multifocal parallels that lead to new ideas referring to the old form/content pair of world realistic art. Exhibition is curated by Dr. Dimitri Ozerkov, director of Contemporary art department of the State Hermitage museum and the Hermitage 20/21 project, and Olga Yudina, researcher of Contemporary art department. Large illustrated catalogue as well as thematic guide on Realisms in General Staff Building were printed in occasion with the exhibition. Crucial part of the exhibition is a 12-hour discussion, an intellectual marathon that will run overnight from June 10 to June 11, 2016 in General Staff Building in partnership with Russian Academy of Fine Arts. Russian and international scholars as well as all previously registered visitors of the museum are invited to speak. 'Realisms' is part of 'Hermitage 20/21 Project for Contemporary art' aimed to collect, exhibit, and study art works of XX and XXI centuries. An education program that includes lectures, master-classes, and a series of public talks is prepared to support the exhibition.

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