Their artworks were once the backdrops for underground rock concerts - now they have moved into museums. Calvert 22 Gallery presents the first UK exhibition of two Russian underground movements started by the visionary artist Timur Novikov.
In the early 1980s, during the last decade of the Soviet regime, the New Artists Group was founded and began making their wild paintings influenced by German Expressionism, Pop Art and Primitivism. First operating out of a communal flat and then an old apartment, they held a series of influential exhibitions, gigs, screenings and parties. Working collectively and without boundaries they combined fine art with youth culture, music, cinema, fashion and performance. Artists such as Sergei ‘Arfika’ Bugaev became a cult figure for his part in the art-house film - Assa, whilst painters such as Oleg Kotelnikov created free, heavily brush stroked paintings.
In 1989 during a critical time of political, ideological and economic transition in Soviet Russia, Novikov started a second influential movement, the New Academy, a movement that sought to encourage a return to the classical ideals of ancient Greece. Dressed as dandies with frock coats and velvet dresses, the artists searched out classical music and rare brooks, organising exhibitions during the 1990s that celebrated classical ideals of beauty and physical perfection.
New Academy works flirted with sexual ambiguity and homoeroticism. Although guarded about his own sexual orientation, Georgy Guryanov created heart-stoppingly beautiful, eroticized drawings and paintings of athletes, sailors and soldiers. And flamboyant performance artist Vlad Mamyshev Monroe used himself as a canvas, dressing up and impersonating historical characters including Marilyn Monroe.
Club of Friends showcases the work and life of an extraordinary generation of figures whose experiments in art, collective creative practice and sexual representation remain ground-breaking to this day.
Works on display include textiles, film, paintings, graphics, costumes and music from extraordinary video works such as Ventslova's highly kitsch Mireille (1995) to Timur Novikov’s flag-like fabric pieces.
Moving between art forms, many of the artists participated in the legendary experimental rock scene with Pop Mechanica and in particular with the band Kino for which Novikov was a designer. Ephemera on show includes posters, autographs, photographs, club flyers and album covers that chart their relationship with international artists such as Brian Eno, Andy Warhol and John Cage.
Coming to the UK for the first time, this exhibition maps the untold story of Russia in the 1980s and 1990s, showcasing two important movements that changed the face of contemporary art in Russia today.
The exhibition is organised in collaboration with the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.
The exhibition is part of the official programme of the UK-Russia Year of Culture, the largest ever showcase of cultural projects to take place. More than 250 events across culture, science, education and sport are planned for both countries throughout the year.