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Bad News

Peter Belyi

December 17, 2008 - January 15, 2009

In the noughties, the powers that be discovered an imperial visuality of retrograde Petersburg aestheticism that paid for a new identity by parting with ironic-serious double-meanings and ideological nerviness. It learned how to influence, to battle with the Moscow context, to win awards and to be respectable. The figure of Peter Belyi looks independent, standing out against this compromised background. His position of artistic autonomy and focused search is the position of a subtle and deep-thinking international artist. His search is related to work within the history of art, to civilized subject matter and to the exploration of the expressionist qualities of various materials. For a long time this material was old metal from the roofs of St Petersburg buildings.

Peter Belyi explores the present as a future cultural layer laid from post-industrial everyday life, from the waste of civilization. Understanding the present through the consequences of mass manufacturing in which all production lines have been globalised and the off-cuts from millions of pairs of shoes have become global waste products, explains a view of the present as the archeology of the future. We live in a society of global waste products. These materials already contain a previous life and the artist masters their plasticity, uses them to create his objects. The idea of the urban nature and artificiality of a material is important to him. He explores the materials that surround us and specifically in this project, the qualities of rubber, its colour, texture, plasticity. The material becomes the starting point for thought.

'Bad News' could have been called 'researching rubber'. Knowledge of the material is no less important here than the expansion of art into the territory of a non-standard materiality. There are analogous privatizations of materials in the history of art Ц first and foremost Beuys, after whom it became impossible to work in felt without risking being accused of falling under his influence. Belyi talks about falling in love with a material and of the religious atmosphere in the gigantic half crumbling factories where only a few people are working. This is how the former rubber factory 'Red Triangle' now looks, which provided the artist with material for his new project Ц rubber braids of various sizes, the waste product of real manufacturing.

The project 'Bad News' is austere and of few words. It would appear to be the first project at the gallery of M&Yu Guelman, that specially approaches the difficult gallery space with a whole installation solution. It includes five installations united by a common material and a common space. The central installation begins architecturally just beneath the ceiling of the gallery at the top of the central column where rubber strands are gathered together into a single point Ц as if being expelled from the skies and fill up almost the whole space. These are rubber strings, knocking puncturing the walls at various heights. Stretched braids invade the building and enter the walls, bring destruction with them. They aggressively materialize sound. The plasticity of aggressively taut rubber blackness is transformed by the artist into a silent medium of modernity. The artist is trying be rid of verbosity, using no more than two materials in one project. Photographs, grass, sticks or earth are impossible. Visually this is the contract of black and white, pale wood and black rubber.

A convincing visual oxymoron is three rubber bells Ц understandably linked to news. Peter Belyi creates a feeling of prewar crisis radio announcements.

Another installation reflects the contemporary condition Ц we see a rubber podium, heaps of rubber waste products Ц twisted rubber braids of various thicknesses crawling up, threatening to overwhelm the space. The installation with rubber objects reminiscent of oiled work clothes in cupboards is possible the most complete and technically unquestionable. A beautiful light object on the wall, where light filters through rubber blackness reminds us of thick lines drawn in ink and at the same time of the conceptual experiments of Jane Holzer. All these installations make reference, in one way or another, to the name of the project, remaining nevertheless pure formalism in which can be read the artist's confessed loved for American minimalism of the 70s. In each new project Belyi seeks a convergence of the idea and the material. His search coincides with the corporeality of the work, and therefore his installations have no heroes.

The new project exists in a context of the current crisis which forces a literal reading and its brutal obviousness cuts off important ideas. The artist rightfully notes that the obvious readings are a catastrophe for his work. He thinks that art is not able to immediately work through the outpourings of the media Ц he doesn't see independent creation in this kind of art; a new aesthetic develops slowly and is simply incompatible with the speed of the news cycle rhythm. Therefore the project, for all the relevance of its title, is only indirectly linked to the current situation.

Alexander Evangely

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