"Un Homme, chapitre IV. La Mer Noire"
03/11 – 25/11/2017
a Institut culturel roumain
1, rue de l’Exposition - 75007 Paris
Christian Paraschiv, Romania
Yevgeniy Pavlov, Ukraine
Curator : Camilo Racana
"The Black Sea" is the fourth chapter of a study entitled “A man” that addresses the male image in contemporary photography in an oppressive socio-cultural environment.
“A Man, chapter IV. The Black Sea” is built around Nomos Corps, 2009, the work of the eminent Romanian artist Christian Paraschiv, symbolic figure of Bio-Art. This piece consists of 2 X 13 photo-infographics on transparent gelatine and gold leaf. It measures 377 X 58 cm. Nomos Corps is a powerful presence inlight, blurred, gleaming gold, suspended in space. Held by pins, the work represents Paraschiv's body, the gilded reclining figure of the Thracian warrior. The piece illuminates the whole exhibition space with its radiance and cultural significance. This brilliance is reflected in the glass covering the other photographs, thus integrating the outer world with the exhibited photo. In order to see the photo we must walk up to it, and as we approach it the reflection of our body merges with the photo image. A fleeting image is born from this fusion.
A composite image by the Georgian photographer Beso Uznadze. Since he took up painting again in 2014, he has been working on irregular superposition of transparencies (layers that have been repainted and photographed). Some areas seem to have been isolated like the dark signs of a form, while others are exposed in a translucent manner and framed within another image. As our eyes scan the photograph, the rich range of colors sparks off the energy and humor in each visual element proposed by the artist in the work. While Untitled, 2016 corresponds to the portrait genre, the two large thistles in Untitled, 2015 refer to classic themes of bouquets of flowers and floral studies. The thorn-coated buds, colored with oils and inks and ready to burst open on the end of their tall, straight, prickly stalks, are the image of "ever living" nature. The immortals.
In 1971, Yevgeniy Pavlov and Jury Rupin founded in Kharkiv an art collective called Vremya. Over time, Vremya became the leading centre of subversive photography in the Soviet Union. In 1972, loyal to the Vremya Group's "blow theory" concept although shackled by the strict regime, Yevgeniy Pavlov created the great Violin series featuring images of the naked male body. The exhibition “A Man, chapter IV. The Black Sea” displays a single image from this historic series for the first time in France: the nude body, intact and unblemished, of a young man lying in a meadow, grasping a violin in one hand. This series is representative of a space of liberty, however brief, for Ukrainian youth during the interregnum that came to an end in 1972.
Labyrinth by the Russian photographer Pavel Titovich dives into the fiery shades of sepia and deep browns of the grotesque profane body that signals the mysteries of occultation. The world of Titovich is played out against a background wall, frozen and frontal like the universe of transformations and their keys.
Black and white, enclosed spaces. The images selected from the work of Bulgarian photographer Dimitri Stefanov are born from his fascination with the powerful bodies of these men with their rugged faces and hands, living forever in asylums and prisons surrounded by Bulgarian fields. Stefanov's photographic work displayed in “A Man, chapter IV. The Black Sea” is an overexposed image in darkness of a pause between a djinn and his victim; the powerful arm attacking; the muscular, scarred head hacked into shape by a machete and punched by the fist of a voracious, multifaceted glutton. Inhabitants of the circle of Hell, inhabitants of the occult.
While travelling in Argentina: a huge blown-up photo from the Women of Allah series by Shirin Neshat stood in the middle of an art collector's vast reception room, facing the entrance. It was the photograph of a veiled woman, her face covered with calligraphic text in Farsi. The cannon of a gun protruded from the folds of the veil, aiming straight at the person who entered the room... At me. Confronted with this sign, the unique image of the Ayatollah Khomeini sprung to my mind: the 3/4 portrait that veiled all other images of Iran for many long decades. These two images were interchangeable like the evening star and the morning star. So I started wondering about this woman's man. How could he live out his masculinity before the gaze of these two images of authority?
Back in Paris, I began researching the male image in contemporary photography in Iran: initially a personal project. This first step was centered on the work of the Iranian photographer Sadegh Tirafkan. During our exchanges and meetings in Paris, he invited me to think about and subsequently modify the concept of "male" for that of "a man".
This first work about the man image in contemporary photography under pression is followed by the chapter dedicated to the work of the Russian artist and poet Slava Mogutin: his photography during his years of exile in the U.S. This series finds its vector in Federico Garcia Lorca's poem Poet in New York.
These two chapters have never been exhibited.
In 2015, in the Hors-Champs Gallery in Paris, I curated “A Man, chapter III” that explores the image of the masculine body in contemporary photography from Russia to Iran (the red thread). Work from fine art photographers in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Iran: artists living in societies where the idea of a man's image is unequivocal and unchangeable. The exhibition addresses the distinction between virility and masculinity in these countries.
This brief introduction resumes with "pins" the exterior aspect of the research. This research, amongst others, has allowed me to develop ideas about photography, the photographic language of artists, the specific characteristics of photography as a smooth surface, the concept of depth, editing, appearance, occultation, reflection. Occultation, reflection and epiphany are the themes of “A Man, chapter IV”.
A Man, the chapters
During my years working in difficult, anachronistic zones, I discovered the existence of an independent system of production and diffusion that was run collectively, outside the dominant system. Fine art photographers struggling against repression created photographic images. Rather than identify their behavior with a sort of resistance to oppression, these artists handle exchanges without damaging their sociability, without avoiding the development of creative language. This constrained language isn't parallel to the dominant language. It isn't even invisible.
By its simple existence, the creation of a masculine image within a constricting environment, however ephemeral it may be, becomes the mark of a space of freedom. My aim is to present examples of these men's work, these fine art photographers. This is what A Man is about...
A Man, Chapter I. Sadegh Tirafkan
The theme of the first chapter is the masculine image as seen by fine art photographers living in Iran. My discussions with SadeghTirafkan during his trips to Paris led me to redefine the vocabulary and methodology I'd been using during the first stages of my research: the captions. The image of the male in contemporary photography became The masculine image in contemporary photography. While extending my medium beyond the photographic image, I was moving away from photojournalism. I directed my research towards an intimate image of a man's body seen by a photographer within an authoritarian environment.
Stimulated by these short exchanges with Tirafkan, I made contact with photographers and photography clubs in Iran, both amateur and professional, and I asked them to propose their vision of the masculine body in their photographic work.
A Man, Chapter II. Slava Mogutin
After working with photography in Iran, follows the transformation of the self-image provoked by exile. This chapter covers the work of the Russian artist Slava Mogutin. Because of a leak in his personal life, this young Russian poet was condemned to a heavy sentence by the Russian law court. He entered the U.S. with the help of American academics. Whilst he exposes his body to the camera his photographic work captures the New York scene in its intimacy.
A Man, Chapter III. The Red Thread
« Un Homme, chapitre III» was shown in the Hors-Champs Gallery in Paris. The Red Thread is the caption given by the gallery owner Hannibal Volkoff, also a photographer.
In this chapter, I wanted to reconnect with the artists living in an environment where the image of a man or, on a broader scale, of a man himself is defined in a precise, unique way. For many long months, I made contact and worked with fine art photographers from countries that were separated by this red thread, this vein with Russia on one side and Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia on the other. Although it does not share this frontier, I included Iran as a sort of homage to a country that was a pioneer in my research.
The work I undertook consisted of sharing with the artists the discovery of their images as a whole. Their extremely high photographic quality is due to the work in the darkroom as much as their relevance. These photographic images resolve the originality of the "captured object" so successfully that that "captured object" outside the camera only becomes visible when the photographer makes it appear. What is absent behind most of these images is the anxiety of not fitting into the society these artists belong to.
Some series were censored as soon as they were exhibited; others were edited for the first time after years sleeping in a drawer; while others were taken in public places, private parties, tank graveyards, during spring rituals, beside a lake... Although the expertise of these artists in their photographic art surpasses all forms of self-censorship, some of the pieces exhibited could not leave their country of origin so copies have been made in French laboratories according to the artists' directions.
The Black Sea and The Gilded Recumbent Effigy
The Romanian artist and bio-art mentor Christian Paraschiv cuts into squares the photographic images of his own recumbent body lying frontal, two sides and back, his body surface, the inner organs, his skeleton. He grinds up the image. He draws and paints on it, then scans it into computer graphics. He edits it onto a square of his own skin, culturing in a laboratory and then edited onto a transparent film. His Corps are sectioned "self-views"; once reunited, they reconstruct his body, glorifying it. His reference system is what changes.
The artist Beso Uznadze celebrates the Being sensuality in photographs constructed as paintings. Two categories of his work have been chosen for this exhibition: one is large blown up images of coloured thistles; the other a masculine image covered with photographic transparencies in the shape of golden squares. This "Byzantine" image responds to the gilded reclining warrior like a sort of rebirth in lime juice.
In 1971, Yevgeny Pavlov founded with Jury Rupin the “Vremya group”: a collective that became an eminent centre of subversive photography in the Soviet Union (Boris Mikhaylov, Oleg Malevanny, Aleksandr Suprunetc wil be part).
In 1972, Yevgeny Pavlov shot The Violin series. His photos challenged the aesthetic style of Sovetskoe Foto: the only masculine image the magazine ever accepted had to show a handsome, emasculated figure in a beautiful (rectified) landscape.
The origins of this series are now legendary. Pavlov was travelling on a train when he met a group of young people and suggested it would be "pretty cool" to photograph a nude man standing in water playing the accordion. The guys agreed but they only had a violin... The situation seemed quite natural to this bunch of young Beatles and Stones fans. The shoot began and spontaneously turned into a ritual celebration.
The instrument is in almost every shot of the series. The violin is the key to the basic message contained in the whole of the scene. That day none of them, not even the author, were aware that they were heralding what was going to become the first Ukrainian "happening".
Pavel Titov's images are made of the Blessed. Labyrinth is a series of images that answer the questions that the images raise for us. A naked man advances, limping. His hands hold his heavy head with its Gordian Knot. Leonardo's mysterious Vitruvian Man is on the wall. Titov's signature-character, as djinns, daemons and thrones are, is an incomplete being who walks beside the wall of the Labyrinth forever.
imitri Stefanov is a Bulgarian photographer who studied photography in Spain where his work received many awards. He returned to his native country, Bulgaria, in search of the "Bulgarian Man". He searched among prisoners and mental patients. His photographic images with their dysfunctional angularity are rich with striking contrasts, and variations of shades of black and white in the closer shots.
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