The Moscow Museum of Modern Art, in partnership with pop/off/art gallery, present the exhibition «Against the Grain», the first museum project of Ivan Novikov — a young artist who had asserted his presence in the early 2010s and, through the decade, has become one of the most remarkable and idiosyncratic participants of the contemporary artistic process in Russia. Novikov combines non-figurative painting and installation practices in his work. His attention is focused on the borders, tension and reciprocal dynamics between nature and culture — between organic systems and the civilizing influence exerted on them by man.
For Novikov, this universal opposition attains a personal reading. He is interested in the social and political cataclysms that mark the history of the countries of Indochina in the latter half of the 20th century: first, the war in Vietnam, divided in two ideological camps, as well as the massive violence instigated by the «Khmer Rouge» regime in Cambodia. The artist reflects on these subjects in the light of modern-day postcolonial and ecological research and correlates them, paradoxically, with the affective scope and theoretical challenges of abstract painting. It is precisely painting that becomes for him the medium that, in its very structure and material composition — canvas, ground, binding agents, textures and colors, — equally reveals the natural and the anthropogenic.
The exhibition title quotes from the eponymous 2017 book by the distinguished American political scientist and anthropologist James Scott (Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States), who studies the experience of grassroots resistance towards state oppression — primarily in the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia.
The display will unite several of the artist’s projects and installations — works from his studio and from private collections, — which have been shown before at various venues. They shall now be reimagined, specifically for the space of MMOMA at Gogolevsky Boulevard. They include «I Want to Be Afraid of the Forest» (2014), «Perverted Basket» (2015), «Lien Xo» (2016), «Luggage without Action» (2017) and «Double-edged» (2018). Specially created new works will also be featured. Utilizing painting and drawing, photography and video, sculpture and ready-mades, plants and mass-consumption products, all of these works, like fragments of a jigsaw puzzle, will add up to create an integrated narrative. In a way, the exhibition at MMOMA will summarize Novikov’s thinking on the recent past of a region important to him, today’s global world order and the ethical potential of art.
Regular tours conducted by the artist will constitute an essential part of the exhibition. He will act as a guide and interlocutor, leading the visitors through the show and refining their experience with authorial commentary.
In the course of the exhibition’s period of work, a special publication is planned to be released, where all of Novikov’s main projects will be documented, alongside texts about his work written by Russian and international researchers of contemporary art — curators, art historians and philosophers.
Curators: Anna Arutyunyan, Andrey Egorov