Old - Fashioned Passion. Canvassing Russian Rhetoric
Victor Misiano

<...> So, a principle of reduction has taken full charge of the strategies of this new "third wave" that has rolled into Moscow in the course of the last few months. An utter absence of values came to be replaced by a newborn sense of responsibility, as well as by a search for solid, primary, and primordial foundations. The younger painters were to face themselves with an unexpected discovery: once reduction has run its course, the solid deposit remaining in the crucible can only be art itself. What else, in fact, could serve as a solid base, if not immediacy of their own activities? And what could constitute the primary element of any artistic strategy, if not the phenomenon of art itself? But looking at art in terns of its very own immanence remains a great innovation in Moscow's art world. Never before could art be simply art; in had always been forced to be more than that. The epistemological catastrophe was to crush the last extant from of "regime art", which has always been a question of bending the spirit of art towards subservience to an ideological Utopia. The very same ruins were also to bury the last surviving underground, which had declared creativity's subservience to Utopias of spiritual confrontation. The reductive frame of mind, on the part of the "third wave", has freed itself from the weight that the ethical brings to bear on the aesthetic, as well as from social analysis, culturological mythologizing, schizoid deconstruction, and finally, from everything else that defined the intellectual context of Moscow's artists of the last twenty years. By proclaiming the demise of Moscow's artistic tradition, the younger painters appear on the scene like so many new and newly ingenuous Candides. They have cleared their minds of categories like "God", "epistemological void", "linguistic structure", "magic", etc. Their minds, in fact, are typified by a truly surprising quality: passion. While theorizing once on the reflexive and mediatory qualities of the conceptualist sensibility, Dmitri Prigov - one of the major exponents of the Moscow underground -was able to coin a category to which he referred to as the "new passion"; so the reductive, primary attitudes of the younger painters might now be defined as "old-fashioned passion".
<....> In the person of Dmitri Gutov, "old-fashioned passion" appropriates still another of the aspects of art: style. The material on which this painter works is the style of the 1960s, which was the very last period in which the whole of Soviet society - from furniture design to the Sputnik - was permeated by a single model. One notes that the artist is intrigued by the neofunctionalist forms of the era of "the thaw", and not by that "Stalinian" neoacademism which was subjected to various manipulations on the part of "Sots Art". The reason for his option lies in the fact that the style of the 1960s was generated by an aesthetic Utopia, making it style in the absolute, whereas "socialist realism" played the role of permissible ideological doctrine; it was a pseudo-aesthetic phenomenon where style found its function as a mask. The totality of the aesthetic project of thirty years ago strikes Gutov as a clear manifestation of the possibilities of an integral and self-sufficient lapidary, and universal artistic world. Style for "old-fashioned passion" is in any case something more than a purely formal mechanism; it is also psychological, and as such it harbors a dimension of profound warmth and intimacy. Gutov relates to the 1960s as the epoch of his childhood; the wall-paper, the kitchen buffet, and the sets of glass plates in his paintings are therefore imbued with a tone of nostalgia. So style acquires a value as a new way of breaking with the tradition of the Moscow underground. One remembers that the poetics of "apt-art" demanded the suppression of style, insisting that style belonged to the class of official and normative values, like the slogan, the parade, and the military uniform. Gutov insists, entirely to the contrary, and in perfect consistency with his own point of view, that the figurative parts of his style relate to the texts of the popular Russian proverbs. The slogan, by definition, belongs to the sphere of ideology; proverbs are a part of the sphere of experience. <...>

Flash Art
May-June 1991, p. 111-112