The post-Soviet art of Central Asia and the Caucasus comes out of a Soviet-era conversation of artistic styles that looks not just to Moscow but also to Mecca. An understanding of the high and low registers of this Soviet cultural heritage allows the humor and self-confidence of the work to be appreciated — aesthetically as well as financially — by audiences.
This synthesis of linguistic signs and visual representation is explored by New York’s Leila Heller Gallery in their new exhibition entitled “Calligraffitti: 1984-2013.” The show features a substantial collection of text-based visual art created by artists such as eL Seed, Parviz Tanavoli, Hassan Massoudy, Hossein Zenderoudi, Shirin Neshat, and many more. The show’s titular portmanteau points to another unification: that between graffiti and calligraphy.
Slavs and Tatars’ work introduces audiences to cultural exchanges between seemingly unlikely places, reminding us of the interconnected nature of culture and highlighting histories obscured by the rigid workings of modern geopolitics. In a world full of heavy-handed visual depictions of political and social issues that rely on simplistic, reductionist constructions of culture, Slavs and Tatars offers work rooted in a nuance and more subtle understanding of history.
Far from the tacit dismissal of handicrafts and folklore that has often characterised the modern project, Slavs and Tatars tend to see no less than the currents of history, political emancipation, and ideology in these otherwise discreet craft objects and practices. Some of these traditions – such as the mirror-mosaic – have been instrumentalized for ideological ends.
Part I of III in a series on Slavs and Tatars‘ Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz– a multiplatform exhibition, lecture-performance, and publication looking at the unlikely shared story of…