||Ballet and Sport
Natasha and Valera Cherkashin
Valera and Natasha
Cherkashin have been instigators, pranksters, iconoclasts, and stars of
the evolving Russian underground art movement in Moscow since the early
1980s. The husband-and-wife team is seemingly tireless, as they have held
more than 80 individual exhibits and more than 40 “happenings”
or performances since their beginnings as talented, rebellious art students
In addition to exploring the changing cultures of the USSR and Russia,
they have also traveled extensively and created work in, and about, the
United States, Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Japan and Mongolia. Wherever
they go, they capture attention and create a buzz. They’ve been
the subjects of more than 30 documentary films and television programs.
Their work is often very large, mural-like, photo-collages and mixed media.
It often depicts everyday people in contemporary societies dwarfed by
heroic public imagery (imposing Soviet architecture, or the visual cacophony
of Times Square neon billboards, for instance).
Their style has evolved dramatically over the years, and they have been
acknowledged and embraced by the mainstream art world. In very recent
years, they have been commissioned to create installations and artwork
for the Olympics and even Motorola mobile phones.
Their earlier work was crowded, rough and handmade, infused with the gestural
quality of a Robert Rauschenberg silkscreen. Today they work primarily
with digital imagery and computers to manipulate and combine their images.
Smudgy photos, paste, paint and ink on photo paper and newsprint, have
given way to sensuous and fluid three dimensional spaces — still
packed densely with imagery — printed digitally on shiny smooth
We have examples of two recent series here. The first is a series called
Ballet, which was created in 2004 as an homage to Stravinsky’s Rites
of Spring. Each image has been created as a negative and a positive print.
The second series presented here, Sports in the USSR, is actually earlier
work, showing ordinary people relaxing at the bases of monumental works
depicting the ideals of perfectly toned bodies engaged in competitive
sports. You can see that the techniques used in Sports in the USSR, were
refined further in the Ballet series, which retains and echoes many of
the Sports images.
Perhaps the one constant theme that stretches throughout all of the Cherkashin’s
work is the struggle of individual identity when living in environments
crowded with imagery, ideals and propaganda designed to make the ordinary
seem inferior. If you get the opportunity, try to see this work in person
— the scale, detail and sumptuous beauty will stick with you a long
— Jim Casper