Dmitry Gutov (RUS)
Dmitry Gutov (FR)
Dmitry Gutov (GER)

Viktor Misiano

Dmitry Gutov's Work: Three Components

"Zeitwenden", Kunstmuseum Bonn
Bonn 1999, p. 126-127.

Dmitry Gutov's creative activity consists of three components. Obviously they are present in his latest projects; therefore, they already existed in his earlier works of the 90-s. Those were hand-painted canvases depicting wallpaper fragments. They looked old fashioned, in the spirit of the 60-s, with the geometrical stylistics typical also for the 20-s. Gutov's earlier works appropriated the stylistics of the Russian constructivism, linking it with the language of Russian avantguard. Trying to give a schematic and formula of Russian avantguard aesthetics one can use Victor Shklovsky's words "Art as a Method". Gutov is faithful to this principle in all his works: they are built upon total rooting of a pithy part of a work in its material and formal structure. Thus, one of his works was made as a giant installation: clouds were floating high above the forest field, and the clouds consisted of badminton shuttlecock ("Shuttlecock"). Whether the shuttlecocks are floating above the ground, earth and wooden planks lay upon the surface: in his work titled "Over the Black Mud" the floor of the Moscow gallery "Rigina" was covered by the muddy black earth and the audience was moving along the wooden light planks thrown over the mud. This effectiveness and effectness of the method lies both in the idea of hand-made wallpapers, and video where the change of a shot coincides with the change of a posture.

However, Gutov's work is not a Russian version of American minimalism. He does not read Clement Greenberg but marxist aesthetologist Mikhail Lifshitz and philosophical classics - Marx and Hegel. Gutov's art opposes to the avantguard idea of linear construction of the art language, his creative activity is consecutively historic. That is obvious both are his first works, appropriations of suprematist compositions, and in his latest video. A woman's figure doing morning exercises is a straight allusion to the picture "Morning" by the Soviet artist Tatiana Jablonskaya, the picture so popular in the 60-s that was reproduced in school text books. Besides, a lot of postures, produced by the model in his video work goes back to the ancient plastics and to neo-classical sportswomen statues of the Soviet age. The installation "Over the Black Mud" also has the straight prototype: the picture of planks thrown over the muddy floor is a precise three dimensional reproduction of the earlier one-dimensional composition by Gutov himself, that is inspired by Poppova and Rodchenko's works. Moreover, this installation goes back to the Soviet masterpiece (again of the 60-s!): the picture by Yuri Pimenov "Wedding in Tomorrow Street". The picture represents a pair of newly married going along the planks to the just built modern house. Finally, black mud is an allusion to misanthropic Russian landscapes painted by Savrasov and Vasiliev, realist artists of the XIX century. However, Gutov's historicism has nothing to do with post-modern deconstruction. On the contrary, it is vital and natural experience of the past as something actual, and work of a thought born by reading of aesthetics and philosophy by Hegel. Thus, in 1996 Gutov's work at Manifesta I in Rotterdam was done as an excursion through Boymans van Boymingem. The excursion was composed by Gutov himself. Any visitor coming to the museum could get at the entrance an audiocassette with the excursion on it.

However, Gutov's art is not a "Musee Imaginaire". He appropriated one phrase from his spiritual teacher, a marxist, Michail Lifshitz: "It's time to say good buy to the petty intrigues of reflexion". That phrase has become Gutov's slogan not only in his polemics with self-sufficient intellectualism of conceptualism (the most alien trend in the Moscow art of previous decade), but also in his polemics with the idea of art autonomy. Gutov is obsessed with reality and he represents still actual figure of a social artist with an active critical point of view. Thus, concerning this position, another work of Gutov is also very significant - "Michail Lifshiits Institute". It was neither an installation nor a picture but a seminar organised by the artist in the Moscow Contemporary Art Centre, the seminar which was attended and during which there were real discussions of artists, politicians and philosophers. Together with two previous components of Gutov's work one can see the straight appeal to reality both in his early works (reproducing banal wallpapers) and in the latest ones. The video work "Morning Exercises" represents his own apartment and his wife, doing morning exercises. However, the most important here is not only the autobiographical character of his works but the fact that each work is a vast social metaphor. Thus, the installation "Over the Black Mud" is a metaphor of Russia, its historic fortune, and "Morning Exercises" is a metaphor of a person's fortitude and persistence, who is doomed to survive "over the black mud".