Suddenly Last Summer
Sticks & Stoned, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Marko Shiva, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Limber, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Fading Sky, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Spinario, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Grasshopper, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Grass Root, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Shower Head, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Golden Rule, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Hay Fever, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Double Stretch, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Sun Blind, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Sunny Garden, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Handstand, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Sunny Side, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Rock Bottom, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Stone Face, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
ConFace, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Ghots#9, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Ghots#14, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Red+Blue, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Deer Head, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Red Hood, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Phantom of Liberty, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Sky High, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Suddenly Last Summer, Box Top, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Suddenly Last Summer, Cover Plate, 2011 © Slava Mogutin
Best known for the shocking beauty and provocative power of his hardcore images collected in monographs including Lost Boys and NYC Go-Go, Slava Mogutin’s new work featured in the exhibition Suddenly Last Summer at AS IF Gallery in New York is a radical yet reasonable departure from the work that has made him famous.
The spontaneity is still there, but the energy, process, and approach is different. Mogutin was given a Holga camera several years ago, but only began working with it during the summer of 2010 while on vacation in the Catskills. Working with expired film, double exposures, and a camera known for accidents of all sorts, Mogutin’s new direction allows him to explore picturesque and poetic visions of beauty, love, and nature.
Discovering a new language in which to present his ideas, Mogutin’s work in Suddenly Last Summer is a delight to behold. The exhibition includes eight 40″ × 40″ prints, as well as a limited edition artist portfolio in a boxed set of 25 chromogenic color prints, 5″ × 5″ each, signed and numbered on the verso, in an edition of 25. The edition is kept in a silkscreened box produced in the back room studio at AS IF Gallery, which is a collaboration between Nicole Rauscher, fabric designer; Seth Tillett, scenographer & artist; and Diego Cortez, curator.
Mogutin took great pleasure in showing the various designs for the box itself. He and the gallery finally decided to use a section of a silkscreen that was illegally made decades ago, and now hangs discreetly yet proudly in a private room in the gallery. AS IF, which is open by appointment only, is the perfect space for Mogutin to show his new work. Located in Harlem, just south of 125 Street, the gallery is light years away from the frenetic dog-eat-dog vibe of the downtown art world. Here, AS IF’s intimate elegance and Mogutin’s casually purposeful new work parallels perfectly. The result is clear. Less is More.
Mogutin explains his connection to Tennessee Williams goes back to his earlier years in the Soviet Union, when he received a bootleg copy of Suddently Last Summer after also reading the play and seeing it performed in Russian staged by an underground theater director. Written in the 1950s, Suddenly Last Summer is a Southern Gothic tale of repression, psychiatric butchery, homosexuality, and cannibalism. Williams’ subtle approach to this subject matter allowed the story to be told at a time when no one could proudly appear to be listening. And yet, with a Hollywood cast that includes Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, this film was no small undertaking during the McCarthy Era.
Mogutin observes how the plot parallels the Soviet response to dissidence. Many were sent to insane asylums to be silenced, while others were prosecuted. He knows of which he speaks. Born in Siberia, in the industrial city of Kemerovo, Mogutin moved to Moscow at age 14. He soon began working as a journalist and editor for the first independent Russian papers, publishers and radio stations. By the age of 21, he had gained both critical acclaim and official condemnation for his outspoken queer writings. Accused of “open and deliberate contempt for generally accepted moral norms”; “malicious hooliganism with exceptional cynicism and extreme insolence”; “inflaming social, national, and religious division”; “propaganda of brutal violence, psychic pathology, and sexual perversions”—he became the target of two highly publicized criminal cases, carrying a potential prison sentence of up to seven years. Forced to leave Russia, he was granted political asylum in the US with the support of Amnesty International and PEN American Center.
Upon his arrival in New York City, Mogutin shifted his focus to visual art and became an active member of the downtown art scene. Since 1999, his photography and multimedia work has been exhibited internationally including P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and Museum of Art and Design in New York, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Overgaden Institute of Contemporary Art in Copenhagen, The Haifa Museum of Art in Israel, and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC) in Spain.
In writing his artist statement for Suddenly Last Summer, Mogtun went in a new direction, using his favorite lines from the film to create a poem, a collage of words and thoughts and ideas that would best explain the connection between the still image and the spoken word, the artistic vision and the physical object, for the creator and the collector all share a common bond: love for the art of photography…
“each day we would carve each day like a piece of vulture
as a trail of days like an overlay brunette sculpture
until suddenly last summer is that penned
using people and maybe that’s not contend
not being able to use people to borrow
suddenly peaceful after all that taboo tomorrow
those nightmares just to be able to tame
their eyes to a sky not black with savage shame”
Slava Mogutin, after Tennessee Williams, 2011
Suddenly Last Summer
Through July 2
AS IF Gallery
529 Manhattan Ave
New York NY 10027