Dasha Bazanova at Gridspace
Dasha Bazanova at Gridspace Gallery
On September 29th I went to Gridspace on Rogers Avenue between Sterling and Park Place to attend the opening of Dasha Bazanova's show, “What to Where When.” Gridspace is run by Charles Goldman and his usual procedure is to show art work in the window of the gallery, sometimes in a grid made of twelve rectangles, three by four. One views the exhibits through the front window. In this case though the exhibit is set back from the window, and one will be able to go into a limited space inside the glass. When I arrived I said hello to Charles, and he pointed out the artist, a young energetic woman who speaks good English with a Russian accent. She came from a village in Siberia, studied international affairs in Moscow and then came to L.I.U where she got an MFA. She now has an artist's green card and seems interested in staying in the U.S. The leap from Siberia to Moscow was a big one, and the one to the U.S. even bigger, and yet Dasha seems to have landed on her feet.
She took me on a tour of the exhibit which has an important disjunction in it, and she told me, “You know, all artists are autobiographical.” So I felt on the one had she was referring to her dramatic life going from a rural place to a central city and then from there to another country with a different language and culture. First of all, I noticed that, starting with shows title, there is wit at work in this exhibit. The title sounds like a question in a fashion magazine. However, one the other hand the pun on “where” is both funny and serious. The question “when to go where?” is one the exhibit deals with. It has two elements drawn from different places that make it interesting. There is the black structure like the girders of a building made of burnt wood. Dasha told me it was based on Russian Constructivism – stark, abstract, somewhat grim in design. However, seated in the heights of the structure are ceramic figures, almost all women, maybe eight inches tall, usually seated on the scaffolding with their legs dangling off into space. Taken on their own, they might be examples of naive primitivism like that practiced by Grandma Moses. However, when one looks closely one finds primitivism is not what we are dealing with. Many of the figures have computers, some are drinking, they have many pets, and one is a mermaid, another is watching TV with a cat nearby, yet another is sitting next to a man. They seem like they might come from a gift shop for tourists, but in fact they have all in some way left behind safe sentimentality. They are all in danger. They might fall off the girders, and part of what put them in their precarious positions is engaging in unsafe activities or becoming something that no longer belongs to the village. So, despite babushkas and peasant clothing, these woman have moved away from their point of origin. Using contrasting styles and media has created something new, and this seems to be a strong point for Dasha.
At the exhibit was a display of books she has created with John Digby, very much in the Surrealist tradition. They contain serious minded text written in a pedantic, scientific tone with etchings of amazing creatures to illustrate “anatomical anomalies” and animals from “flood myths.” The ostensible intention is undercut by the oddity of the conjunction in which the elements don't belong together. The effect is to see things in a new way; the ordinary world has been moved into a kind of dream state. Max Ernst and the Dada movement explored this technique in the 1920's, and bringing it back now provides another disjunction.
If Dasha is interested in bringing together things where each one sets off the other, it seems she has brought herself into the New York art scene happily. Her adviser at LIU, Dan Christoffel, came to the show and is a big supporter. As a realistic painter, he perhaps did not have much artistic advice, but he likes Dasha's work very much. He told me Dasha is “authentic,” “completely herself,” in a way that makes her an ideal student. She is figuring things out and finding her way. I asked about her academic background in art history; Dan says she is educating herself finding out about contemporary and past art as she goes, and integrating her discoveries into her outlook. He told me in her view women carry the burden of the world. There is only one male figure in the show, and when I noted that there are no children, she replied, “Not yet.” People like her. I was told she returned to LIU to fire her ceramics and a young man still in the program helped her. For someone who arrived in the U.S. knowing no one and having little idea about the program at LIU, Dasha has taken a leap that has turned out very well.
The show will be at Gridspace until November and Dasha will spend time tending the gallery, so one can meet this open and interesting person and have her give the tour. Doing that would be well worthwhile as would keeping track of her further ventures.
– John DeWind