Valery Koshlyakov thinks not in categories of time, but in categories of cultural spaces, where emptiness is more important than presence since it preserves within itself the spirit of the time, zeitgeist, which the artist then relays to the viewer. On giant pieces of corrugated cardboard, Koshlyakov creates monumental images of past grandeur, which amaze with their compositional rigor and the nobility of the fated fading. Like all monumentalists, he is totalitarian. The subjects of his paintings are Pompeian frescoes, Constructivist Moscow, Greek, Roman, and Stalinist architecture, Gothic cathedrals, monuments from both the Renaissance and contemporaneity. His painting on corrugated cardboard pretends to be a masterpiece from epochs past found accidentally in the dumpster. Trash, under his brush, turns into an object of reflection and becomes priceless.
1962 born in Salsk, Rostov-on-Don region.
1985 graduated from Grekov Art College, Rostov-on-Don.
1987 member of "Art or Death" group.
Lives and works in Moscow and Paris.
Valery Koshlyakov. Temple
Cardboard and adhesive tape on wall, 450õ600 cm
Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Alexander Evangely: Your works comprise perhaps the most unequivocal part of "poor" art, the very heart of its identity. What's interesting are the internal coincidences of that which you do with that from which it is made; I mean not only the materiality of the original products, but also ideas, the energy of motifs, conscious influences, etc.
Valery Koshlyakov: Before, povera was not a quality; it was organic art in an underground environment. Everyone made something in a DIY fashion, sitting in his kitchen. The conflict of "poor" art and bourgeois art arose recently. It's easier for me to work with "poor" materials. I constantly encounter the fact that one has to do things quickly, briskly. You get invited, given exhibition rooms, and five days for installation. In four-five days, one has to cover large spaces and say as much as possible. I do it; then I throw it all away - no storage space. That is exactly what the demands of the times are.
À.Å.: So povera art is, for you, first and foremost a question not of aesthetics, but of the situation in which one is forced to create the works?
V.K.: It's most likely that way. I know full well that no one will buy this from me and I'll be forced to throw everything away again. And then gradually, some things get accumulated which you find it hard to give up.
À.Å.: Once during construction work at a gallery, the workers threw away a part of your work, having taken it for trash, and you had to dig it out of the garbage container. Does the question of who your viewer is arise?
V.K.: We were born in a time when art was something sublime, and the viewer was not important. Right now, there is a horrible process of breakage and change - we have lost the viewer, only the buyer remains. Well, yeah, there is the substance of art, but in reality - who goes around looking at it? Spoiled people come; they don't see. They call artists who have no relationship to visual plasticity "good draughtsmen." Everything got mixed up, there are no criteria. It is necessary to insist on "poorness" as a national quality. It is precisely today that "poor" art becomes something purifying, living.
À.Å.: In particular, due to the hand-made origin of the things created?
V.K.: That's exactly the mastery and skill, which no one has abolished - a feel for color, for visual composition. I have encountered artists in the West who work in group studios - everything is good, but it's hard to understand what the person is capable of. It seems to me that one of the sides of "poor" art is the revelation of your "I" and of your abilities. One has to crack the name "poor art." Understand what has bubbled up behind it.
À.Å.: There are two key elements here. The first is in the ethical dimension of the word "poverty." Do you declare the ethical in what you do?
V.K.: Certainly. I distance myself from contemporary art because that's not what I work with. I work with the pure terrifying category which is inaccessible to man - the tragedy of dying, fading. Here yesterday, gone today. A person carries this drama all of his life, and everything is devoted to it, it makes no difference - Greek ruins or your private Soviet life, which turns into rotted wood, your memory, health, everything. It's an eternal human theme. And the pictures - they are metaphors of this thought. Like mourners.
À.Å.: The second key element is connected with our past: did coming of age in the USSR affect one's relationship with materiality?
V.K.: Our feelings to this day remain unclear, both within the culture and for each individual. One can't understand it, how is it possible - it was here, and now it's not. Certainly, all of us were formed in the USSR, at a time suitable for idealism, for some sort of beautiful thoughts. It seemed that everything was lousy, but it turned out that time fosters within us a tender fabric of something which does not exist today and which cannot be born. I can no longer give it to my children - there is hardness everywhere. Through art? There is that soft region there - in the production itself, not in how the work will live afterwards. In art, there is still something left over, but we also had it in our lives.
À.Å.: Let's go back to the title. What has bubbled over behind it?
V.K.: The name "poor art" does not reflect us fully. I want to add to my house - a poor house dating back to tsarist time, not one that was built to make profit, but, rather, for poor people, like a barracks, only made of stone; there is a trolleybus depot around, the house is this little charming old thing - and I want to attach a balcony to my window, also to be made out of shitty materials, I'll take the simplest kind of PVC. How to explain that we want to beautify life, that we are, in truth, the heroes of our time; what does one call this? How to explain unnecessary acts of heroism, completely useless, which we perform anyway? The true manifestation of art is in that it is completely of no use to anyone.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2006 Sarcophagus. PROJECT_FABRICA, Moscow
Exposition - hommage au siecle des lumieres. Effet d'indifference. Gallery Orel Art, Paris
2005 Reliquiae. Made in USSR. M. Guelman Gallery, Moscow
Iconuses. Dressing of the Space. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
Nuvola (Cloud). National Museum Tretiakov Gallery. 1 Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Russia. Project of MACRO, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome and galerie Orel Art Presenta, Paris
2004 Iconuses. Dressing of the Space! Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Boston
Nuvola (Cloud). MACRO, Museum of contemporary art, Rome
Valery Koshlyakov. Museum Villa Haiss, Zell am Hammersbach, Germany
Paysage. Lieu de vie, Mairie de Paris, Hotel d'Albret, Paris
Empire of culture. Chapelle de l'Hopital Saint- Louis de la Salpetriere, Orel Art Presenta, Paris
2003 Heritage. Orel Art Presenta gallery, Paris
Occupation of Elite (with S. Shekhovtsov). Regina Gallery, Moscow
2002 Valery Koshlyakov. W. Bischof Gallery, Berlin
Valery Koshlyakov. Elten&Elten Gallery, Zurich
2001 Iconuses. Schusev Architectural Museum, Moscow
W. Bischof Gallery, Berlin
2000 From the South through the North to the East. Ivanovo Fine Arts Museum, Ivanovo
Cottage. (Installation), M. Guelman Gallery, Moscow
Cabinet. Tver Fine Art museum, Tver
1999 Sketch Book. M. Polsky Gallery, Chicago
1998 Heroic Cities. M. Polsky Gallery, Chicago
Temple of Art. M. Guelman Gallery, Moscow
L'Hermitage for the House Management N 5 (Action), Moscow
1997 Permanent residence. Galerie Centre de Russie, Geneva
Traveler's diary. V. Bischof Gallery, Stuttgart
1996 V. Koshlyakov. Galerie Schulz, Berlin
Moscow - Polygymnia. M. Guelman Gallery, Moscow
Polygymnia. (Action). Fresco of ruines of the constracted space, Stuttgart
1995 Fuocoso (with Y. Shabelnikov). M. Guelman Gallery, Moscow
Fonte Latino. Walter Bischof Gallery, Stuttgart
1994 Dark Rides (with V. Dubossarsky). Yakut Gallery, Moscow
Perspective Architecture. Architectural Gallery, Moscow
1993 Portrait Class. M. Guelman Gallery, Moscow
About Motherland. Trekhprudny Lane Gallery, Moscow
Big Order. Galerie La Base, Paris
Architectural Utopia (with V. Dubossarsky). State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
1992 Parthenon. Trekhprudny Lane Gallery, Moscow
Painting and Sculpture (with V. Dubossarsky). Peresvetov Lane Exhibition Hall, Moscow
1991 Night in Venice. M. Guelman Gallery, Moscow
Under Italian Sky. Sakala palace, Tallinn
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2008 Russian Povera. Project by Sergey Gordeev. Curator - Marat Guelman. Rechnoi Vokzal, Perm
Art-Moscow-2008. International Fair of Contemporary Art. Central House of Artists, Moscow
2006 RUSSIA! S. Guggenheim Museum, New York; S. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Art of XX century. 150 years of the National Tretyakov Gallery, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
2005 Russia! S. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Russia 2. M. Guelman Gallery, The Central House of Artists, Moscow; WHITE BOX, New York
Focus Istanbul. Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin
Paysages : Constructions et simulation. Casino - Luxembourg, Forum d'art contemporain, Luxembourg
2004 Moscou-Berlin/Berlin-Moscou 1950-2000. Gropius Bau, Berlin, State Historical Museum, Moscow
Award of the State of Russia (exposition). State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Na kurort! Russische Kunst Heute, Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden
7 Sins. Museum of Contemporary Art, Ljubliana, Slovenia
2003 Il ritorno dell'artista. 50 Biennale di Venezia, Venice
2002 Davaj! From the Free Laboratory of Russian Art. Postfuhramt, Berlin
Davaj! From the Free Laboratory of Russian Art. Museum of Applied Arts. Vienna
Contemporary Russian Painting. Central Exhibition Hall New Manege, Moscow
XXV Bienal de Sao Paulo. Iconographias Metropolitanas, Sao Paulo
Cetinje Biennial. Cetinje
IX. Rohkunstbau. Schloss Gross Leuthen/Spreewald, Land Brandenburg
Not the painting. Museum of contemporary art ESSL, Vienna
2001 Moscow: Paradise 2001. Galerie Krinzinger, Salzburg/Vienna/Wels
Moscow contemporary art. Shloss Grafenegg, Vienna
2000 South Russian Wave. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
Freezing pole. Russian Art of the 90. Ecole des Beaux-arts, Paris
Bons baisers de Russie. Festival Garonne 2000. Òoulouse 2000
1997 Cetinje Biennial. Cetinje
1996 Zone. Yakut Gallery. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
1995 Multiplication. Kashirka Exhibition Hall, Moscow
Russian Nonconformist Art. 1957 - 1995. Ludvigshafen, Kassel, Altenburg
Art to Die.Yakut Gallery, Manege, Moscow
1994 New Russian Art. Ch. Keesee Collection, City Art Center, Oklahoma City
Project Discovering of the space. In the framework of the exhibition Exchange, Amsterdam
1993 Dutch-Russian Exchange Project, Moscow
A Mosca... a Mosca... Galleria Communale d'Arte Moderna, Bologna
1992 Moscow Romanticism. Central House of Artists, Moscow
Still Life. Velta Gallery, Moscow
A Mosca... a Mosca... Villa Campoletto, Herculanum, Rome, Milan
1991 Esthetic Experiments. Kuskovo, Moscow
1990 Great Magicians of Painting. Peresvetov Lane Exhibition Hall, Moscow
For Cultural Rest. Kashirka Exhibition Hall, Moscow
1989 Italy Has a Shape of a Boot. Exhibition Hall on Queue, Rostov-on-Don
1988 Zhupel. Exhibition Hall of the Union of Artists, Rostov-on-Don