The weekend before last, with the help of a Russian English teacher named Masha, I visited Vinzavod, a collection of art galleries in an old winery. The winery is a little difficult to find, and when I mentioned the gallery in the teacher’s room, Masha showed genuine interest.
On the whole I don’t like going with other people to art galleries – generally I find their pace too quick, and I find myself feeling like I have to defend the art somehow. Ironically, I almost feel like I put Masha in a similar situation at Vinzavod. We both enjoy art history and have a general familiarity with some aspects of contemporary art. While “classic” fine art can be appreciated on a surface level for its beauty or history, contemporary art is shrouded in the complexities of art theory, lost in the constant drive for originality, or forgotten as a simple study of form and material. If contemporary art challenges me on some level, I enjoy it, but I find its better for me to keep my mouth shut and process the art or I have a tendency to resort to critiques before I have fully examined the art.
Luckily in the end, Masha and I both came to the same conclusion with the exhibition “Recycled” – an experiment with transforming recyclable materials into art with a human form – it felt a bit cliché and more like design than fine art. There’s nothing wrong with design, it’s just difficult to understand in a contemporary art context. As I said, I expect art to challenge me in some way and design merely plays with form.
Another exhibition, we seemed to agree on, was called “Destroy and Rejuvenate.” The work felt a little disjointed and esoteric – each piece of art included an explanation from the artist. While at times I wish I had this explanation, I feel that visual art shouldn’t require a written explanation to be enjoyed and appreciated. Perhaps if the explanations were not so prominently displayed next to the art, the feeling would have been different. Regardless, while the artist of “Recycled” seemed to not reach far enough, “Destroy and Rejuvenate” took quite the stretch of logic and reasoning to tie all the pieces and explanations together. While one piece displayed florescent lights which spelled out “Amerika” and claimed to reference Kafka and the shattered dreams about immigration to America, another piece was a comparison of two clumps of key chain charms.
Fortunately, the beauty of the winery itself and one gallery in particular made up for the lack of great gallery installations. The most popular gallery at Vinzavod, photographer.ru, which despite being overcrowded served as a refresher and rejuvenated my interest. Aside from an exhibition of award winning photographs from American, German, British, and many other nationalities of photographers, the gallery had an excellent selection of art books. The gallery and books reawakened my interest in the history of photography, and the architecture of the entire Vinzavod campus, with its unpainted brickwork and the industrial look of exposed pipes produced a generally creative, isolated atmosphere which is sure to draw me back.