Boris Orlov and Sergei Shekhovtsov. Parsuns non grata

Борис Орлов и Сергей Шеховцов. Парсуны нон грата
Dates 05 October 2023 — 31 January 2024
Location Mercury Tower, 1-й Красногвардейский проезд, 15, 2-й этаж

Stella Art Foundation presents the first large-scale exhibition project in the Foundation’s new premises: “Parsuns non grata” by Boris Orlov and Sergei Shekhovtsov. The exhibition will bring together more than 60 art pieces, including first-exhibited works by one of Sots art founders Boris Orlov, and the sculptures by Sergei Shekhovtsov that cover the artist’s 25-year oeuvre.


Both authors are bound by a long-term friendship. Their works are also related by addressing themes of the excluded, repressed and hidden. The title, “Parsuns non grata”, refers wittily to one of the exhibition’s key projects [1] as well as points to figures (persons) of silence, displaced into the area of the collective unconscious.


Boris Orlov, who stood at the origins of Sots art, has been developing a strict system of the Soviet ideology’s subconscious functioning since the mid-70s. When discovering the plastic signs of great styles in the socialist realism’s official visual language, Orlov becomes a pathfinder or a psychoanalyst, who follows these tiny “lapsus linguae” to the invisible base of the Soviet myth, repressed from the official language.


The artist’s words in this connection: “I was most interested in the phenomenon of empire, and some time ago nobody could even utter this word out loud. Being so young and brave, I began to develop this theme in my works. Studying the entire experience and operating principle of the Soviet propaganda machine gave me the entire visual experience of the Soviet Union, of its base on the visual heritage of all world empires: from Alexander the Great through Rome, Napoleon, the Stalinist style and straight to Brezhnev. The theme of power has always been very important to me, but I have never been involved in politics myself, I cannot be called a political artist, it is wrong. I am rather a researcher, observer, artist-political scientist.” [2]


At some point, Boris Orlov is a realism artist who “only” records and describes the system of the indecent underside of ideology’s mechanisms functioning.


We also have a slightly different view on an excluded object in Sergei Shekhovtsov works, who addresses discarded and rejected shabby images of mass culture and everyday life. Made from “ignoble” industrial materials, often covered with chaotic graffiti, Shekhovtsov’s deceptively light sculptura secunda seems unfinished.


Here is what the artist says about his works: “In 2001, a feeling of the world as a soft, amorphous, deceptive matter just emerged. And the first project I wanted to do was about the illusional world around me. In general, it was a pop art statement, so the material processing with a graffiti tool enhanced the feeling of illusion. The texture, the story of softness and hardness, it was all important..." [3]


The works’ objects are in a state of constant formation and, by avoiding final form, keep moving. In conditions of endless mutating and merging, the objects and characters of Shekhovtsov’s works cannot divide a space between them and become expelled into the endless emptiness of the signifier, trembling in front of the spectator with a curved plastic side.


No wonder that the artist’s favorite characters were the excluded and the city residents, deprived of civil rights, the homo sacer of the urban fauna: pigeons and stray dogs.





[1] “Parsuns” series by Boris Orlov (1976 - 2018)

[2] Interview: Elena Verkhovskaya for Interview Russia

[3] Interview: Faina Balakhovskaya for the catalog of the exhibition "The Short Montage"