July 7 - September 2 2011
Twenty years ago—after the fall of the Berlin Wall—a process of dissolution led to the breakup of the Soviet Union and many other countries that had been united under Communist governments. From the Baltic republics to the Balkans, from Central Europe to Central Asia, entire regions and nations were reconfigured, their constitutions rewritten, their borders redrawn. “Ostalgia” looks at the art produced in and about some of these countries, many of which did not formally exist two decades ago. Mixing private confessions and collective traumas, the exhibition traces a psychological landscape in which individuals and entire societies must negotiate new relationships to history, geography, and ideology.
"Ostalgia” brings together the work of more than fifty artists from twenty countries across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics. Many of the works offer a series of reportages on aspects of life and art under Communism and in the new post-Soviet countries. The exhibition pays particular attention to the unique place that artists came to occupy in Socialist countries, acting simultaneously as outcasts, visionaries, and witnesses. Unlike a conventional geographical survey, the exhibition includes works produced by Western European artists who have grappled with the reality and the myth of the East. Some of the preoccupations that unite the artists in “Ostalgia” are a romantic belief in the power of art as a transformative, almost curative agent; an obsession with language; the conception of a new aesthetic of the body; a fascination with the ruins of history as represented by monuments and architectural vestiges; and an understanding of artwork as a form of sentimental documentary that mediates between cultural pressures and individual anxieties.
Combining seminal figures and younger artists, “Ostalgia” does not follow a chronological perspective, establishing instead a series of dialogues between different generations and geographies. Zigzagging across distant cultural landscapes, the exhibition exposes local avant-garde practices and highlights international affinities, which indirectly question the centrality of Western art historical paradigms.
“Ostalgia” is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, with Jarrett Gregory, Assistant Curator. Extended labels by Chris Wiley.
Courtesy the artist and New Museum, New York