Jun 012024

Wealthy figures gaze into the distance while holding strange pets in AES+F’s exhibition of paintings Inverso Mundus: Chimeras at Sargent’s Daughters. The Russian artist collective’s creations act as a commentary on the excesses of the privileged class.

From the press release-

Inverso Mundus: Chimeras, will present a series of never before seen paintings, correlated to images and themes from Inverso Mundus, their video installation and performance work that premiered at the 56th Biennale di Venezia in 2015.  This marks the first presentation of the group’s work to feature exclusively paintings. Produced in the style of the Old Masters, these works present the groundbreaking and challenging work of AES+F in a new medium for a new audience.

AES+F works in photography, video production, sculpture, and painting with the goal of creating large-scale narratives that explore our contemporary global landscape and its culture, vices, and values.  First founded in the former Soviet Union in 1987, they have shown at major institutions across Europe, Asia, and the United States.  Their painting practice, produced collectively in the group’s Berlin studio, employs hyper-realistic oil painting techniques to mimic the digital glossiness of their video and digital work, tethering their complex renderings to the two-dimensional and the handmade.

Inverso Mundus takes as its initial reference point the sixteenth-century Carnivalesque engravings in the genre of “world upside down,” an early form of populist social critique that emerged with the advent of the Gutenberg press. This body of work presents contemporary life turned “upside down,” depicting a tragi-comic apocalypse where social conventions are inverted to highlight the unspoken premises of our social contract.  In the Chimeras series, various archetypes of contemporary life are portrayed cradling uncanny monsters on their laps like cherished pets. The series asks viewers to confront the monstrous contradictions we all hold dear in contemporary society.

In the wake of Putin’s re-election, the violence against dissidents such as Aleksei Navalny, and the recent amplified persecution of artists across Russia, AES+F’s critiques of the oligarchy, power, and military aggression are particularly pointed. Their public stance against the war in Ukraine has made them a target, and informed their decision to leave Moscow and relocate to Berlin in 2022.  This exhibition brings AES+F’s groundbreaking and urgent work to New York, adding new context to the international conversation.

This exhibition closes 6/1/24.