Amateurs and Lovers
Through August 16
Siberian photographer Nikolay Bakharvey continues to gain attention and with good cause. His work has made notable appearances in the New Museum's "Ostalgia" exhibition in 2011; Houston's Fotofest's tribute to Russian photography in 2012; and the Venice Biennale this is summer. Amateurs and Lovers marks the artist's first solo show in the United States.
Bakaharvey's work has been generally deviled into two categories- public and private; this show mingles the two bodies of work. While at first the choice would seem contradictory the decision allows for us to consider the idea of portraiture as it relates to public or private realms. Traditionally clearly separated, the line between public and the private continues in our time to blur, an these works could be said to foreshadow the social-media trend that co-mingles these worlds, and in that line to foreshadow anxieties and even exhibitionism surrounding a global culture that is sharing more of its private persona online. Questions of image control, and even ownership arise.
All of Bakaharvey's works are charged- this often occurs through the position of a figure or figures. Touch and gesture are important to the works both interior and exterior and help heighten their often pulsing sexual tension. Exterior images are of bathers and were the closest thing to a nude that Bakharev could manage in the Soviet era when photographing nudes was forbidden; these images skirted that line of acceptability and indeed lead to some of the interior work when Bakharev could charm his way to an invitation into the sitter's home for more intimate works.
The work seems to reach back into the roots of art history as well foreshadow our time. The gritty seduction of his work is most likely what has caused it to be compared to that of Diane Arbus and Larry Clarke, but they are also in-line with the work of his countryman Boris Mikhailov. The interiors and nudes share connections to Courbet's sleeping peasant women and Christian Schad's Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) working girls, but also seem to remind us of Andre Kertes lounging beauties or even Matisse's blue nudes.
Bakharev is included in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Art Institute of Chicago. Dashwood Books has recently published a monograph on Bakharev titled Amateurs and Lovers and reproduced the eponymous essay by Ektaterina Degot which appeared in the monograph People of Town N published in Russia in 2009.
For more on the work of Nikolay Bakharev, please visit Julie Saul Gallery. A virtual visit of the exhibition is available to view online.
New York Times Review
Wall Street Journal Review