In the late 19th century, the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy said, “An artist is someone who can draw all…” In early 21st century Russia, there lives a man who could justifiably respond to Tolstoy and say, “An artist is someone who can do all.” This man is not a writer, but an artist, and his name is Vitaly Pushnitsky. Sergey Popov, a renown Moscow gallerist, recently said that Pushnitsky is a true genius, not “genius” in the ordinary sense, that is, not just a great artist, but rather a master with many unique talents. It seems there is no material, no technique upon which Pushnitsky is reliant. Given that contemporary art seems to require a more rigid specialization, this is particularly impressive. Pushnitsky is not subject to the laws of the era. He paints, shoots video, creates graphics, makes sculpture, creates installations, designs buildings, and has even participated in Land Art. He does not, like many artists, resort to the help of experts and does almost everything himself. Of course, such a versatile artist could not resist paying tribute to the photograph. Sputnik Gallery in its first solo exhibition with Pushnitsky exhibits Birth Date, one of his best projects in the medium and one that has been exhibited widely in Russian museums.
The concept of Birth Date was born out of happenstance. In 2007 Vitaly was in New Mexico waiting there for friends. Jet-lagged and strolling under the scorching sun in search of sights, he found in the outskirts of the town a cemetery. Looking at the grave markers, he discovered a strange thing: This was a children’s cemetery, and written on the stones was a name and only one date. Realizing that he had stumbled upon a graveyard of children who had died on their birthday, he later wrote, “I had the sense that I’d seen time. It wasn’t something you could touch or feel. It had really become just this one date, and today is my birthday.”
The photographs taken that day at the cemetery became the basis of the project Birth Date. Although the project seems to have arisen out of circumstance, perhaps there are no accidents, in that the subject matter has a very close connection to our artist. Pushnitsky, despite the medium, has always identified with and been drawn to “eternal themes”: man’s place in eternity, death and culture as a source of essence. As always, his works radiate extraordinary formal elegance. While we do not necessarily know the specific history of the images that comprise Birth Date, we enjoy the exquisite form of these images that without losing touch with reality turn to abstractions.
In this series, Pushnitsky used the Japanese “shinkala” technique in combination with photolithography, and thus, each copy is unique. This technique allowed the artist to introduce into the works excerpts from books he had bought while traveling. Pages from Homer’s Odyssey published in the United States in the late 19th century once again remind us that everything in the world is perishable, but the world itself is eternal.
Vitaly Pushnitsky lives and works in St. Petersburg, Russia. His work is represented in many public and private collections including the collections of Viktor and Sergey Popov, Marat Guelman, Moscow Museum of Modern Art and The Russian Museum.