Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow | Exhibitions | Nikita Alexeev - Closer to Meaning

MULTIMEDIA ART MUSEUM, MOSCOW
MUSEUM "MOSCOW HOUSE OF PHOTOGRAPHY"
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Nikita Alexeev
Closer to Meaning

Nikita Alexeev.
Ll: lemon; luggage.
From the ‘Your first book (from “apricot” to “zucchini” and back again)’ series.
2020.
Rapidograph and watercolour on paper Nikita Alexeev.
Aa: apricot; armchair.
From the ‘Your first book (from “apricot” to “zucchini” and back again)’ series.
2020.
Rapidograph and watercolour on paper Nikita Alexeev.
Solutrean: It is not what you are thinking about.
From the ‘Stone Age’ series.
2020.
Watercolour and ink on paper Nikita Alexeev.
Rain in Rovereto.
2007.
Watercolour and ink on paper Nikita Alexeev.
Stefano Della Bonta, Conceptual Artist.
From the ‘Remarkable people I met at Shore’ series.
2020. 
Watercolour and ink on paper Nikita Alexeev.
Pink Slipper in Heaven. From the ‘Things in Heaven’ series. 
2019.
Watercolour and ink on paper Nikita Alexeev.
Dd: dandelion; dice.
From the ‘Your first book (from “apricot” to “zucchini” and back again)’ series.
2020.
Rapidograph and watercolour on paper

Nikita Alexeev. Ll: lemon; luggage. From the ‘Your first book (from “apricot” to “zucchini” and back again)’ series. 2020. Rapidograph and watercolour on paper

Nikita Alexeev. Aa: apricot; armchair. From the ‘Your first book (from “apricot” to “zucchini” and back again)’ series. 2020. Rapidograph and watercolour on paper

Nikita Alexeev. Solutrean: It is not what you are thinking about. From the ‘Stone Age’ series. 2020. Watercolour and ink on paper

Nikita Alexeev. Rain in Rovereto. 2007. Watercolour and ink on paper

Nikita Alexeev. Stefano Della Bonta, Conceptual Artist. From the ‘Remarkable people I met at Shore’ series. 2020. Watercolour and ink on paper

Nikita Alexeev. Pink Slipper in Heaven. From the ‘Things in Heaven’ series. 2019. Watercolour and ink on paper

Nikita Alexeev. Dd: dandelion; dice. From the ‘Your first book (from “apricot” to “zucchini” and back again)’ series. 2020. Rapidograph and watercolour on paper

Moscow, 4.09—15.11.2021

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Curator: Anna Zaitseva
Consultant: Olga Sviblova
Curator: Anna Zaitseva
Consultant: Olga Sviblova

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Nikita Alexeev
Closer to Meaning

Curator: Anna Zaitseva

Consultant: Olga Sviblova

Corporate trustee of the Museum: Nornickel

The Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow presents the exhibition ‘Closer to Meaning’ by Nikita Alexeev, a classic figure in Russian contemporary art. ‘Next year, if I live, I have an exhibition planned at MAMM…’ the artist wrote in his notes on 10 March 2021. On March 26 he passed away.

The museum, which organised several outstanding projects with Nikita Alexeev and supported him in the last, very difficult years of his life, dedicates the exhibition ‘Closer to Meaning’ to his memory. We tried to make it the way the artist intended.

In January 2021 Nikita Alexeev’s series ‘It Takes Three to Tango Hegelian’ was shown at the exhibition ‘A Shadow of the Soul, but Slightly Sharper’ at MAMM. He wanted to call the new exhibition in our museum ‘Drawing Time’ and wrote: ‘“Drawing Time” is obviously “Time To Draw” or “Time For Drawing”. But in English to draw also means “to pull”, “to drag”. So I'm pulling this bastard, time. Also I absolutely don’t believe that time is something that stretches linearly or runs from A to Z. No, for me time is something like a bath filled with a thick substance that is almost like jelly, making swirls and waves from the movements of the body lying in the bath. I would like to see a lot of pictures at the exhibition, as many as possible. So many that the viewer feels immersed in a bathtub, asking himself in bewilderment: “Why so many?” And after all, time is such that there can be neither more nor less of it, so let’s have more.’

Nikita Alexeev was admitted to hospital on the very day we planned to transport his works to the artist’s own studio, the first in his life, which had been renovated by the museum. Alas, the works were transferred when Nikita had already left us. The museum made an inventory of the contents of his workshop, namely about 6,000 works mostly created in recent years.

At Nikita Alexeev’s first posthumous exhibition we have tried to include as many of his works as possible, carrying out the artist’s last wishes.

For Nikita Alexeev drawing was a way to materialise ephemeral time. The theme of time is very important in his art. The drawings made every day, of which thousands accumulated over the years, each with a date, are all units of the artist’s personal time flow. The exquisite graphics of the ‘Deathbed Drawings’, which Alexeev began working on back in the 2000s, and the brief ‘notes about nothing’, as he called them, that he published almost daily on Facebook, are dotted through an exhibition that includes more than three hundred works from numerous series produced over the past twenty years.

Nikita Alexeev was an artist and writer. It is almost impossible to tear one hypostasis from another in his oeuvre. He knew, felt and moved freely across the expanses of world culture — art, music, philosophy and literature, ranging from the ancient Japanese sages to John Cage. Nikita Alexeev introduced texts in dozens of languages into his works in many languages (the names have been translated in the exhibition for convenience of the viewer), and this multilingualism juggling with the meaning or sound forms of words and their nonlinear connections with the image were fundamental for him. The irreducibility of the world to a single universal system was a fundamental idea for Nikita Alexeev as artist and writer. It was in fact the voids formed in gaps between things, words, languages or sounds that he valued.

As a teenager Nikita Alexeev met with Dmitry Krasnopevtsev, George Costakis and Oscar Rabin, thanks to his parents. He was introduced to Mikhail Roginsky, whose painting made a great impression on him, in 1967. Then in 1969 he became friends with Andrei Monastyrsky, Nikolai Panitkov and Lev Rubinstein, with whom his connection became a very important factor. From 1975 to the 1980s Nikita Alexeev was a member of the Collective Actions group. During the same years he met Ivan Chuikov and Ilya Kabakov, to whom, as the artist wrote, he ‘owed a lot’. In the late 1970s Nikita Alexeev was one of the creators of MANI, the Moscow Archive of New Art. From 1982 to 1984 Alexeev set up the APTART gallery in his apartment on Dmitry Ulyanov Street. Between 1985 and 1987 he participated in the activities of the rock group Central Russian Upland (organised by Sven Gundlach and Nikola Ovchinnikov).

In 2008 the artist wrote: ‘I left for France in 1987 — both for purely personal reasons, and because a hysterical time was beginning in Moscow, which I did not like. But I didn’t break ties with my Moscow circle, participating in joint projects and regularly visiting Moscow. In 1993 I returned, since the reasons for emigration, for me and at least for then, had ceased to exist. Having no illusions about what is happening in culture and society, I believe that a cardinal change is taking place right now, which may completely change the concept of art or even make art in its current concept irrelevant. I am interested in seeing how my individual understanding of art can exist in a new space, and whether this is possible.’

In France Nikita Alexeev had a solo exhibition ‘Palais de l’Arbre — Balais’ at La Base Centre for Contemporary Art in 1992, and four group exhibitions: ‘Cinq Russes à Toulouse’ (Toulouse, 1988); ‘La Base au Pays des Soviets’ (La Base Centre for Contemporary Art, Paris, 1991); ‘Adresse provisoire pour l’art contemporain russe’ (Musée de la Poste, Paris, 1993); and ‘Collection d’Art Contemporain RINACO. Moscou 1993’ (Caisse des Depots et Consignations, Paris, 1993). During this time Nikita Alexeev had exhibitions in Moscow, Germany, Japan and the USA, but lacked recognition as an artist in France.

Unlike other Russian artists who often found themselves in isolation, Nikita Alexeev fell in love with France after leaving Russia. He greedily absorbed the history of world art and world contemporary art accumulated in France and grew accustomed to its culture, language, lifestyle and way of thinking. He considered France his second homeland. In 2012 Alexeev left ‘instructions’ imbued with humour and sadness in case of death: ‘...please put these two passports in my white slippers: in the left that of a citizen of the Russian Federation, in the right that of the French Republic. But you can do it the other way around, I won’t be offended anymore’.

Among the art and artists who influenced his work Nikita Alexeev listed cave paintings from the Palaeolithic period, Old Russian iconography, Far Eastern art prior to the Early Renaissance, Kazimir Malevich, René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, Cy Twombly, Marcel Broodthaers, Dmitry Krasnopevtsev, Ilya Kabakov, Andrei Monastyrsky, ‘and others’.

Nikita Alexeev’s work is deeply rooted in the history of world and Russian art. Yet Nikita Alexeev managed to create his own unique aesthetics and his own artistic world, which have not yet been fully appreciated by the public, or by specialists in modern art history.

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