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Andrey Chezhin: I Love This City

Sputnik Gallery
547 West 27th Street, No. 518, 212-695-5747
February 4 - March 20, 2010
Reception: Thursday, February 4, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

The beginning of season. Neither light nor colors Like ghosts, rush the shadows of people… Again, Sasha Cherny

The title of this project, I Love This City, is simple and seemingly self-explanatory. Undoubtedly, hundreds of photographers have created projects with similar titles. But to Andrey Chezhin this apparent simplicity, almost banality, is significant and anything but simple. Moreover, it is ambiguous in that he is referring to St. Petersburg, the most ambiguous city in Russia, perhaps in all of Europe.

St. Petersburg is a city built on the remains of those who erected it. It is a city that, in the course of its history, has changed its name three times and has now, once again, returned to its original name. It is a city of great writers: Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, but also a city of the Revolution. Architecturally, it is a city unlike anything else in Russia. It is at once foreign to Russia, and at the same time organic to Russian consciousness, with its leaning toward utopia. All this is St. Petersburg, the city, which Chezhin “loves”. We love things with which we can identify. Chezhin connects with the object of his love through creative treatment. For example, in St. Petersburg 2, the artist is revealed in a foggy image that combines architecture (the city) and authority (the figure of a rider).

The city of St. Petersburg tends to be better revealed through literature and not through painting (there are few great painters in the history of St. Petersburg). Perhaps, however, the medium that best reveals its true nature is photography, a medium that possesses an aura of ambiguity. Perchance this is precisely the reason St. Petersburg has given Russian culture a number of excellent artists who work in the language of photography. Chezhin is one of those great masters.

At first glance, Chezhin is a typical son of the post-modern era: he is a virtuoso at using different visual languages, his favorite approach is montage, his project is serially produced, his reality is not so much the reality of the city itself (sometimes, it seems there is no “real” city for Chezhin), but the reality of his own photographs. Like an alchemist, he subjects his photographs to numerous magical operations, converts them into silkscreens, and then paints them. The techniques used by Chezhin, however, are so conservative, they borders on exotic.

And in this conservatism, in this trust in his own personal touch, Chezhin, who rejects the profane digital world, is , of course, also a post-modernist. But not a total post-modernist. In part, this is because St. Petersburg is not only a city of marshy fogs, but also the city of the Revolution, a city-project.

It is, therefore, not a coincidence that Chezhin’s main character is architecture: architecture itself is an art of project. In the series, The Space of Escher, the artist extracts new configurations from existing architectural forms, creating an architecture of the future of sorts, And in this project, other cities appear: Washington, New York, Paris, Venice. This is not by chance. This is because in the utopian world, which is projected on St. Petersburg, humanity becomes singular in the infinite creative play of form and space. Here, Chezhin reveals himself as a classical Russian modernist with a belief in utopia and the transformation of the world. He is a person of faith who lives in a world in which there is no longer space for faith. Therein lies the ambiguity and the tragedy of his labor. To the end, he a St. Petersburger, because he truly does love that city.
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