Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow | Exhibitions | Alexander Slusarev - The geometry of light

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Alexander Slusarev

The geometry of light

Moscow 6.03.2020—30.07.2020

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Alexander Slyusarev

Geometry of Light

As part of the ‘Photobiennale-2020’, the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow presents an exhibition by Alexander Slyusarev, ‘Geometry of Light’, timed to mark the 10th anniversary of the photographer’s death.

Alexander Slyusarev (1944–2010) gained a superb education in philology and worked as a translator from Italian. His enthusiasm for photography began when he was still at school and visited the studio of ‘Soviet Photo’ magazine. From the late 1960s he participated in exhibitions, first in the Baltic States and then Russia.

His move to photography coincided with the Khrushchev Thaw. In 1957 the International Festival of Youth and Students was held in Moscow; foreign books and magazines including publications on photography flooded into the country. For Slyusarev the magazine ‘Camera’ became one of the most important guides to the world of photography.

Slyusarev’s very first pictures in the early 1960s are a bid to create his own individual style which is fundamentally opposed to the principles of socialist realism, and to the new realism of documentary photography at that time. His interest in the formal aspects of photography, the problems of light and composition, determined his creative path, yet he was also searching for metaphysical content and the transcendental element. The term ‘metaphysical photography’ was actually coined by Slyusarev in the 1970s. Curiously enough, at this juncture a school of meta-metaphorical poets (Alexei Parshchikov, Ivan Zhdanov, Alexander Yeremenko) also appeared in poetry and set similar tasks for their own work. 

Minimalism, an interest in the damaged textures and structures that filled Soviet reality and went unnoticed by the ideologically trained eye of Soviet man, an extreme intimacy and at the same time philosophical generalisation became the main characteristics of Alexander Slyusarev’s work from the late 1960s to early 1970s.

Slyusarev’s favourite subject matter was windows. It is worthy of note that in the 1970s important Russian underground artists such as Ivan Chuikov, Erik Bulatov and Oleg Vassiliev also created series of works related to windows, and also posed the problem of ‘exit’. In a Soviet Union that was completely closed and cloistered from the world outside by the Iron Curtain, the concept of exit became a major existential problem. For Slyusarev this exit was light.

In the laconic, minimalist and refined images of Alexander Slyusarev, whatever remains beyond the frame is always more important than what he actually depicts. In a society where everyone spoke Aesopian language, where meaning was obscured by ideological slogans and people saw what they knew, for Slyusarev photography represented an instrument of philosophical reflection, an alternative way of life.

Alexander Slyusarev conducted radical experiments in constructing a ‘flat landscape’ without linear and diagonal perspectives, the introduction of colour into black and white photography and a conceptual approach to photography where the problem of narrative retreats to the background and emphasis falls on exploring the nature of photography as a new medium. All this deservedly resulted in Slyusarev’s work featuring in the collections of major world museums, including the Tate Modern.

Our museum is proud to say that from the earliest days of its existence we have worked extensively and productively with this great artist, and have now managed to accumulate a significant and important part of his photographic oeuvre in the MAMM collection.