Herbarium is the inaugural show of Moscow’s PENNLAB Gallery, intended to set the vector for the gallery’s further development. The exhibition brings together works by sixteen Russian young artists working with the medium of photography and exploring the current moment: the Russian here and now. Each of the artists deals with the subject of the personal in their own way, bringing it into the public realm. Their works are united by fragility, sincerity, tenderness and intuitiveness, all combined with a critical approach. The global pandemic has clearly demonstrated the fragility of our subjective perceptions of the world and of the entire world order itself. What was forever has now ended; what seemed impossible has now become the norm. Our new way of living has blended the personal and the public. The private spaces of people’s homes are exposed to their colleagues’ gaze during endless video conferences, while any in-person gathering of people causes anxiety or alarm. The experience of the pandemic has become so collective that it seemingly makes any reflection on our personal experiences of it redundant. The sense of reality becomes more acute for people locked in their apartments, which helps them to discern the remarkable in the everyday from a glare on the water to a blossoming tree or the smell of grass. The sincerity and sensibility of the authors featured here becomes understandable and relevant. We can hear overtones of the uncanny in these works’ aesthetic precision, the looming catastrophe yet unknown at the time of their creation. It may seem that the artists here are celebrating the beauty of the epoch soon to be gone. The aestheticising and formalism of the works featured here evoke associations with the early 20th century: the Silver Age of Russian art, a time when art foretold a change. The collection of butterflies from Vladimir Nabokov’s happy, careless childhood ceases to be what is—a collection of dried insect skeletons—as their beauty gains the additional dimension of a prophecy ignored.
More information is available at pennlab.gallery/herbarium_en