AND THE WHITE SNOW AS A CLEAN SHEET OF PAPER
Shortly before the Christmas and New Year celebrations, a show of Francisco Infante and Nonna Goryunova titled "Snow Meridian"* opened at the Krymsky Val building of the Tretyakov Gallery. It is mounted in a special project section, which is the final stop in the enfilade on the upper storey housing the permanent exhibition "20th-century Art" and also serves as an entry to the section of the newest art trends located on the first storey. The borderline position of the exhibition space - between modern and contemporary art, tradition and experiment - determines the context framing the contemporary artists' exhibition as a part of the personal shows programme. The choice to present Francisco Infante's work as part of the Tretyakov Gallery's special projects programme is not accidental. Infante, who is known for breaking the basic conventions of art and crossing its accepted boundaries, shows us the harmony of creation through new forms and technical solutions; today, he is an acknowledged master. A Spaniard who grew up and lives in Moscow, Francisco Infante is one of those artists whose work defines today's art.
* December 2009-2010
"Snow Meridian", one of the Tretyakov Gallery projects designed to introduce to the public the most significant Russian artists of today, is a retrospective of pieces pivoted around one theme. The exhibition traces perhaps the entire evolution of artefact as a special form of creative expression combining the features of assemblage, performance, and installation without being narrowly confined to any one of these art forms. Incontestably, Francisco Infante is the person who created this new form and then conceptualized it. He groped his way to the idea of artefact intuitively - through the spontaneous creative acts in a natural setting which he practiced with his wife and coauthor Nonna Goryunova in the late 1960s.
Some of these experiments were recorded on film and used as the basis of the "Suprematist Plays" series (1968) - Infante's earliest work featured at the show, which is mounted in the forefront of the exhibition space. The show also features the classic artefacts of the second half of the 1970s: "Pilgrimage of the Square" (1977) and "Focuses of a Deflected Space" (1979), where Infante explores the subject of mirror images incorporated within familiar settings. Infante's artistic evolution can be traced through the series he created during the next decades: "Lining up a Sign, or Inverted Perspective" (1984-1986), "Rural Impressions" (1995), and "Lines" (2003). Today, as before, Infante and Goryunova continue to demonstrate that artefact is an inexhaustible form of creative expression - this time, in the "Snow in the Alps" series photographed in January-February 2009 in Switzerland, which premieres at the show.
Yet, the exhibition's structure is not chronological - it is determined by the inner logic of the narrative summarized in the project's name. "Snow Meridian" brings together works made in different years but thematically cognate. Each of the pieces features snow as a potent agent of action. In the words of the artist himself, this project affords to the viewers much room for interpretation. Thus, in the minds of many, both foreigners and Russians, snow is one of Russia's symbols, a phenomenon which is not only natural but cultural as well.
Besides, snow, when conceptualized within an artefact paradigm as a creative material, has a unique plastic expressiveness. Covering the earth, snow makes it virginally clean like a white sheet of paper or the surface of a primed canvas. And the bright coloured objects created by the artist and intricately arranged on the snow produce truly painterly effects. Not accidentally, some series of the artefacts evoke the Russian avant-garde legacy such as the Suprematist compositions of Kazimir Malevich or Alexander Rodchenko's works balancing on the thin line between painting and object.
Meanwhile, the snow crust, like the surface of a canvas, has a distinct texture - either porous and grainy or smooth and shiny due to the nodules of ice. This textural diversity is masterfully used to good effect in different series of artefacts. A coarse, unevenly spread, slightly melted snow, typical for the beginning of Spring, serves as the backdrop in the "Suprematist Plays" series of 1968. In some of the pieces from the series "Focuses of a Deflected Space" (1979) and "Additions" (1983) mirror objects are incorporated into the space of winter landscapes with frozen water ponds whose surfaces transform reality reflecting objects placed on them or sunbeams. The harmony of white on white born from the interplay of light and dark, and of lusterless and shiny, materials is masterfully conveyed by Infante in his "Against the Light" series (2006). Often snow becomes within the context of an artefact the epitome of sculptural element engendering form ("White Buildings", 1996; "Two Lights", 1998; "Structures in Snow", 2004/05).
His recent works add new colours to the characteristics of white thanks to the images of grass shooting forth here and there from under the snow ("Coloured Constructions", 2007). In the shots from the "Snow in the Alps" series
(2009), made in a harsh weather, the blasts of wind bring about a "snowy sfumato" obscuring the outlines of landscape in the distant background.
The motif of spinning and falling snow is pursued in a video projection incorporated within the exhibition space, reminding us about the singular importance of accident in the process of creating an artefact.
The craft of capturing the brief instant bringing us closer to eternity and finding that sole viewpoint that offers a glimpse into the mystery of the universe becomes pivotal for bringing an artefact to life. One of the key components here is uniqueness.
This feature also underlies the setup of Francisco Infante's and Nonna Goryunova's exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery. Although the idea of "Snow Meridian" project was conceptually brought to fruition in 2008, when a similarly titled show was hosted by the Polina Lobachevskaya Gallery, the present exhibition including both well-known pieces and works never previously displayed was put together in a different way especially for the Tretyakov Gallery.
This new exhibition includes more than 130 artefacts from 16 series. Printed in different sizes (there are seven installations overall), they are arranged on the walls so as to form a certain geometrical pattern contravening the show organizers' deep-seated belief that exhibits must be hung in line. The central section of the room features double-sided artefacts secured with cable-stayed structures around the screen showing images of falling snow - the project's essential motif.
Not by coincidence, the opening of the "Snow Meridian" exhibition overlapped with the presentation of the renovated permanent exhibition of the newest art trends, within the context of which Francisco Infante appears as one of the key figures of contemporary art. When the project was over some new artefacts by Francisco Infante and records documenting the process of their creation were added to the Tretyakov Gallery collection.
The AVC Charity Foundation and the Polina Lobachevskaya Gallery were co-organizers of the exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery.