Lisson Gallery is delighted to announce an exhibition by Igor and Svetlana
Kopystiansky in September 2002. In their first solo exhibition at the gallery, the
Kopystiansky’s will be exhibiting a mixture of photography from the late 1970s
and early 1980s and more recent video work. The photography dates from their
period working as dissident artists in Russia while the video pieces were filmed in
New York, the cities that have been their home since they left Russia in 1988.
Their practice as conceptual artists has always drawn on a variety of media and
they will also include in the exhibition examples of their early films, which were
shot on super eight or 16mm, a highly unusual format for artists to use at this
time in the Soviet Union.
They will be showing a two screen projection lasting ten minutes entitled
Incidents II (1996 -2002) shot on the streets of New York, which shows
discarded objects being blown around by the wind. The objects have become
disenfranchised, taking on a new poetic identity as they are buffeted by the wind.
The Day Before Tomorrow (1999) is a two screen slide projection piece showing
slightly different variations of the same New York street, is a succinct metaphor
for how Igor and Svetlana work together, whilst still maintaining a separate
The notion of the everyday being changed into something significant by the
artist’s gaze has been an important idea in the Kopystiansky’s work for over thirty
years. In a series of photographs entitled An Underground Play from 1978 taken
secretly and illegally in a busy subway station, we see snatched and fleeting
glimpses of ordinary Russians going about their business, rushing down escalators
and through walkways to catch unseen trains. As the title suggests, there is a
sense of theatre in these works, drama being found in the banal, but also
forbidden nature of the photographs.
The Kopystianskys occupy a singular position in the history of Russian
contemporary art. While their work is rooted in the tradition of the Russian
Avant garde, unlike the generation of artists before them, their practice has
always been informed by international developments and was a conscious
rejection of Socialist Realism, the predominant, State sanctioned style. Although
their Russian contemporaries drew on examples from European and American
Pop and Conceptual Art, the Kopystianskys developed a language of their own.
Whether working as dissident artists or in exile, their practice has always been a
deeply ironic commentary on the nature and usefulness of art, as well as
providing a covert critique on the political systems that govern us. Since leaving
the USSR they have exhibited widely both separately and as a partnership, in
many major public institutions. A new video work Flow 2002 will be at
Documenta11 until September this year.