The Stella Art Foundation is showing sculptor Alexey Pankin’s personal project. This is the Foundation’s second collaboration with the artist. In 2009 he débuted with the exhibition “Rebellion Mausoleum” curated by Anatoly Osmolovsky. The exhibition “He feels at home in the May beetle song” will offer the public twelve of the artist’s latest sculptures.
The title of the exhibition is a quotation from the work of German-language poet Paul Celan (1920-1970). In the final poem of his collection No One’s Rose (1963) Celan alludes to a well-known seventeenth-century German nursery rhyme about a May beetle — a piece of folk art that combines childish naïveté with unbearable grief over the loss of parents and home in a bloody war. The feeling of dread that arises from the paradoxical combination of a naïve form with disturbing content is present in the off-white figures frozen in small groups across the exhibition space.
Pankin himself considers “questions about the genealogies of embodiment, the long history of representing the body” as the main thread in his artistic interests. It is curious that the artist’s wife was the model for several of these new works.
“I am concerned with how ‘body’ senses itself today in the view of the ‘numbness’ induced by the way that everything in the culture from before is now in simultaneous existence. In these figures, a reduction and hypertrophy of classical standards come into contact with stiffness, limping, bad posture, dizziness, alienation and not knowing how to play the guitar,” Alexey Pankin explains.
The artist’s work blends an intellectual approach with a delicate, profound and individual plasticity. Although his favourite material is wood, he works with diverse materials in surprising juxtapositions. Modern wood-working techniques lend his sculptures a distinctive velvet finish, rather like the surface of human skin. Such great sculptors as Sergey Konenkov, Henry Moore and Stephan Balkenhol when working in wood have used the darker kinds for a certain feeling of heft. Pankin, however, selects light-toned varieties and lightens them further with his own technique to form a dramatic and unsettling image of a bloodless body.