Moscow Plastic Arts

Arcadia Exhibitions Presents

Moscow Plastic Arts

November 10 - January 8, 2006

Photographs by Nick Muellner

December 21 - January 8, 2006: Hours by appointment only. Please call 215-517-2573 to schedule an appointment.

Thursday, November 10, 6:30 pm

"The Photograph Commands Indifference"
lecture by the artist
Grey Towers Castle Opening reception immediately following in the art gallery

Arcadia University Art Gallery is pleased to present “Moscow Plastic Arts,” an exhibition of new photographs by Ithaca-based artist Nick Muellner. The twenty ink-jet prints that comprise the exhibition depict views of construction sites in and around Moscow taken during the artist's visits there in 2003 and 2005. As a group, they evoke both the Soviet celebration of labor imagery and the austerity of American Minimalist sculpture, specifically the work of Barry Le Va, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson and others.

Hovering between formalist inquiry and blunt, physical documentation, “Moscow Plastic Arts” draws very particularly on the transitional material, ideological, and social status of the rapidly commercializing post-soviet metropolis. Printed in a rich but faded palette on manila tag stock, these large-scale photographs describe the melancholy transactions of a modernizing culture with a vocabulary unique to the form. As such, they suggest and entwine two heroic models—Socialist Realism and High Sixties Modernism—that are both unavoidable and inevitably absent in the work. Their frustrated evocations illuminate the tragicomical space between idealist belief and material truth.

On Thursday, November 10 at 6:30 p.m., directly prior to the opening reception in the gallery, Muellner will present a lecture about his work in the Mirror Room of Grey Towers Castle. Entitled "The Photograph Demands Indifference," Muellner’s talk will place his current project in the context of a decade-long practice that that has persistently investigated the limits of photography as a vehicle for pursuing documentary imperatives, a platform for formal research, and an interface to literary, political, and personal investigations. Distinguished by an ongoing interest in landscape and a restrained use of sardonic humor, Muellner’s work has often taken Russian history and literature as its generative subject.

Arcadia University Art Gallery’s presentation of “Moscow Plastic Arts” is accompanied by the publication of a new artist's book. This slim volume reproduces all the works in the exhibition and includes a short essay entitled "Trouble with Monuments" that places Muellner’s photographs in relation to an historic controversy about public art that erupted in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. At the time, Moscow, the new Soviet capital, was littered with statuary commemorating its pre-socialist past, the fate of which was argued between traditionalist forces and a radical bloc (led by the Futurists). Muellner's photographs of recent Moscow work sites, with their capacity for contingent readings and references to construction and demolition, progress and dissolution, eloquently reframe this debate within the historical present.

Nick Muellner is a photo-based artist, writer, and curator who lives and works in Brooklyn and Ithaca, New York. His work has recently been exhibited at ClampArt and Stark Galleries in New York and Locks Gallery and Project Room in Philadelphia. He received a BA in comparative literature from Yale University and an MFA in photography from Tyler School of Art, Temple University. He teaches Photography and Critical Studies at the Park School of Communications, Ithaca College.