Angelology: Ilya and Emilia Kabakov
23 October 2010 – 16 January 2011The Model, home of The Niland Collection
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Within the Kabakovs’ work, one can sense a tremendous desire for the betterment of humanity by humanity. Beyond religious ideologies, and not caught simply within sentimentalist, storybook narratives, their work employs the museum or gallery as a site of constructing a humanist universalism, often from forgotten pieces of history or via a recoding of familiar tropes, such as that of the angel. Ilya Kabakov has written of “the aura which comes from our past” as being “what stops us from sinking into oblivion, and what we call our culture, our interior world.” While philosophical nihilism and pessimism are often popular forms of representing the world, and in fact only perpetuate the world’s difficulties, the Kabakovs remind us, gently, of social utopias, child-like fantasy, faith in humanity, all without proselytising or moralising, for their gesture also contains a tender embrace of hopeful improvement for humanity, and a form of faith in its potential. Open and accessible, Angelology asks us to reconsider what we do really want to leave and to produce for future generations.
Now based in New York, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov collaborate on environments that fuse elements of the everyday with conceptual and historical narratives. While their work is deeply rooted in the Soviet social and cultural context in which the Kabakovs came of age, there is a universal significance to their work that powerfully strikes audiences around the world. Since the early 1990s, they have collaborated to make complex installations that combine references to history, art, literature and philosophy. Much of their work has revolved around the creation of fictional characters and elaborate situations. An interest for storytelling and fantasy often underpins their art. Ilya Kabakov coined the term ‘total installation’ to describe these all-encompassing environments, in which viewers find themselves completely absorbed by the atmosphere of the work. While best known for their large scale and all encompassing installations, Ilya Kabakov has painted throughout his career, working frequently in series.
The Kabakovs’ work is included in the collections of most of the world’s major museums, including MoMA, Tate Modern and The Pompidou, and has been shown in such venues as the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Documenta IX, at the Whitney Biennial in 1997 and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg among others. In 1993 they represented Russia at the 45th Venice Biennale with their installation The Red Pavilion. The Kabakovs have also completed many important public commissions throughout Europe and have received a number of honours and awards, including the medal of friendship from the Russian President in 2009, the Praemium Imperiale in 2008, the Oscar Kokoschka Preis, Vienna, in 2002, and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Paris, in 1995. The Kabakovs live and work in Long Island, USA.
A publication with texts by Seamus Kealy, Director / Curator at The Model, and Rod Mengham, reader in Modern English Literature at the University of Cambridge and Curator of Works of Art at Jesus College, accompanies the exhibition.
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