RUSSIA REDUX / SCHROEDER ROMERO GALLERY
NY ARTS Magazine, November 2005 by Isabelle Dupuis
"Russia Redux #1," Schroeder Romero's opening show of the fall season, is an incisively critical-and successful counterpoint to the Guggenheim's latest blockbuster "Russia!" Conceived as such by its curator, Elena Sorokina, and the sixteen artists and artists collectives she assembled, it also holds its own as a smart and compelling group show.
The Guggenheim's "Russia!" is as impressive in its scope as it is in its superficiality. In the end, it is no more than a dazzling sampler kit of 900 years worth of painting, with a hint of sculpture, leaving one with an unnerving dissatisfaction. Considering the complexity and richness of Russian history and culture, what the Guggenheim proposes is a startling conventional and totalizing representation of what Russian art is.
The issue of representation of oneself, of the other is precisely the impetus behind "Russia Redux #1." When the Guggenheim's exhibition list began circulating this summer, Sorokina and the artists most of them Russian, though the point here is not to create a reductive show of the creative impulses that may exist in Putin's land decided to propose a more critical and ultimately more interesting examination of Russia's contemporary condition and the representation thereof.
The first impact is aural. The Russian national anthem wafted through the gallery, faint yet omnipresent, emanating from a tape-recorder set next to an empty chair outfitted with a forbidding "Do Not Sit" sign. The installation by Anatoly Osmolonsky functioned as a reminder that finding a cohesive historical footing is anything but obvious in a country where the hegemonic plates keep shifting. Written in 1944, the anthem's lyrics were first purged of Stalinist references during the Thaw, replaced altogether after the fall of the Soviet Empire only to be re-instated in 2000, cleared this time around of any communist or Soviet references.
The theme of disintegration of the state, of livelihood, of the economy was omnipresent throughout the show. The collective Chto Delat and Dmitry Vilensky explored the economic ruin of the country in Sandwiched, through interviews with the many sandwich-men and women lucky enough to etch out a meager living on Moscow's streets. The video also included excerpts of a performance during which the artists distributed blank leaflets to passersby. Alina and Jeff Bliumis' drawing, Viruses "Colored Revolution" #1, visually illustrates the disintegration of government with a brown map of Russia, its dullness gnawed on the east by the democratizing orange of Ukraine and pink of Georgia. Will the pastel revolutions ever reach the Kremlin?
DIGITAL VISIONS ALINA AND JEFF BLIUMIS: GEOMETRIC GEOGRAPHY
By Elisa Tjin & Sylvia Borda
During the 1970s, the Soviet Union permitted its citizens to immigrate away from the country after imposing restrictive policies that had dominated the last five decades1 before. In 1971, over 23,000 Soviets, the greater majority being Russian Jews, immigrated to the United States2. The number of Ă©migrĂ©s leaving the USSR peaked in 1979 at 50,000 people3. Alina and Jeff Bliumis consider themselves to be representative of the Third Wave of Russian immigration 4 to the US. This last wave of immigration consisted of Soviet families leaving in the 1970's, 1980's, or through the Soviet Union's collapse in the early 1990's to come to the States, escaping from Soviet political ideology and anti-Semitism5.
Alina and Jeff Bliumis are multidisciplinary artists who paint, create videos, animations, sculptures, installations, and related mixed media productions. They are both originally from the former Soviet Union now residing in New York City. Jeff Bliumis and his parents left Kishinev, Moldova, USSR, when he was fourteen years old6. His interest in art grew in the United States and he went on to pursue a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in Mathematics and Art and then continued to graduate school at Berkley University in California7
Alina (Lukatsevich) Bliumis was born in the early 1970s in Minsk8 and immigrated to the United States in 1993, graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Computer Art9. Alina explains that her and Jeff's emigration experience to the States impacted their artistic development and subsequent artistic productions10. Alina and Jeff started working as an artistic team in 200011 and have since collaborated on several projects. This paper will focus on their joint projects, Geometric Geography. It will explore how this piece relays concepts related to the artists' personal memories and experiences of emigration from the former Soviet Union to the United States.