The Marina Gisich Gallery has been showing a succession of modern graphic art: Petr Beliy’s etchings, Valeriya Matveeva-Nibiru’s watercolors, and Kirill Chelushkin’s large-scale drawings.
The latest name in this set is Valeriy Grikovsky. A favorite of collectors and a laureate, Grikovsky is a participant in many Russian and European projects. Nonetheless, this is the artist’s first large gallery exhibition in Saint Petersburg.
“A Cargo Culture View” is a series of large-scale works using ink on paper (the artist’s favorite technique). The expressive, masterful graphic language familiar to viewers has become more reserved, consciously resurrecting memories of Soviet magazine illustrations from the 70’s. The visual lineup is filled with representatives of the modern Petersburg artistic bohemia and references to art history.
By taking modern “heroes” (laborers, illegal immigrants, tourists, housewives, managers, terrorists, and artists) that are typical to this age of social tension in its staging, and combining them with layouts of classic composition and an epic landscape, the artist arranges a panorama of general confusion in the face of the systemic world crisis. The numbness and stupor of his characters, their complete bewilderment, and their gazes fixed on the sky are paralleled by Grikovsky with the origin of the “airplane-worshipping religion” or “cargo cult” on the Melanesian islands.
There, according to the artist, the local tribes experienced what the rest of the world is experiencing now. After World War II, American military bases were removed from the archipelagoes. When the soldiers disappeared, so did the goods (cargo) that had been delivered by planes, and that the natives had been using and subsisting on for a long time, forsaking their traditional trades. In response to the disappearance of civilization’s blessings, the Melanesians began to copy the actions of the Americans – built airports as well as they could, made palm-branch airplanes, tattooed military insignia on their bodies, marched, and lit up mock airstrips with bonfires. Instead of the pragmatic procurement of food, the islanders preferred repeating the cosmogonic ritual, praying for the charity of the divine “cargo”.
The little Melanesian crisis pushed the aboriginal society to take up pursuits that would be better described in religious or art terms than in economic terms. Grikovsky assesses our modern situation as a global shortage of “cargo” and suggests taking advantage of the experience gained by the natives who first endured this consumer abstinence.