Barbarians used to depict Mugs, both to make things more fun and to scare away evil spirits. Christians embraced the Icons, as scenes from the Old and the New Testaments became the main subject of paintings.
During the Renaissance the artists reached mastery. It strengthened the greatest achievement of Christian culture — unquestionable value of a human personality, created in the image and likeness of God. Gradually, the icons of the saints began to show the features of the artist's contemporaries and neighbors. The main element for master artists was light and this light was Divine and transformed the Faces into Icons.
Some time after the French Revolution the Divine light started to fade. Icons were replaced by Faces, first by the noble and aristocratic ones and then by the common. Faces reflected the diversity of features and personalities seen in humanity.
Then the 20th century came and Icons, Faces, and Mugs collided. Christian culture was wounded — badly, but not lethally. As Afanasy Fet, a 19th century Russian poet, postulated, the subject of art became "a series of magic changes in a dear face." Both in literature and in the fine arts as well as our daily lives we witnessed with excitement how Faces turned into Mugs, but still sometimes into Icons.
We find a large variety of Faces and Mugs of this period in our museum's collection. The Sixtiers (1960s artists), whose work we call “the Soviet Renaissance,” knew quite a bit about them. But where do we look for Icons? In Hieromonk Domaskin's volumes on New Russian Martyrs? Or, perhaps, in a certain light a great artist’s Face can turn into a semblance of an Icon?
At our exhibition Icons, Faces and Mugs will look into the eyes of each other and the visitors in the 21st century.
The exhibition features more than 70 works by 1960s and contemporary artists: Anatoly Zverev, Dmitry Krasnopevtsev, Dmitry Plavinsky, Vladimir Yakovlev, Vladimir Yankilevsky, Oleg Tselkov, Mikhail Shemyakin, Leonid Kropivnitsky, Mikhail Shpindler, Boris Sveshnikov and Vyacheslav Kalinin, Eduard Steinberg, Leonid Purygin, Ivan Lubennikov, Natalia Nesterova, Leonid Rotar, Natalia Turnova, Grigory Bruskin and photographs of artists captured by Anatoly Brusilovsky and Igor Palmin.
AZ Museum Director — Natalia Opaleva
Author and curator — Polina Lobachevskaya
Production designer — Anatoly Golyshev
Media artist — Platon Infante