A CLARITY OF PURPOSE – Mikhail Rozanov – Museum of Moscow, 23rd. January to 1st. March 2015
Mikhail Rozanov is a real photographer.
- There are not many around.
He is modest in manner and unpretentious.
He has an unfailing eye for detail and a clear vision of what he wants to see in his work.
He reminds us of the great names of Soviet photography in his choice of subjects, consistency of approach and visual honesty.
The collection on show at the Museum of Moscow consists of numerous cropped photographs of parts of Soviet monumental architecture and sculpture found at various locations all over Moscow.
The pictures concentrate on the components of an unknown, wider message being conveyed by the whole piece – and Rozanov deliberately keeps the whole object off-camera to make sure our appreciation is not influenced by the whole. It is as if we are being shown separate and discrete lines from epic poems without knowing what preceded or came after.
This unique approach forces focus on certain details and then allows the viewer the liberty to stay in that limited space or to let the imagination produce a fantasy of the entire piece. This is the antithesis of the purpose of the creators of the original (subject) works, but it displays the creativity and subtlety of the artists with persuasive emphasis.
In considering the detail of images so familiar they are not even seen, let alone looked at, the photographer reveals delicate and imaginative touches from the original creators – for example (in the picture, right) the thoughtful concept of portraying the ‘fertility’ of the USSR not only via its fruit (seen hanging from the surrounds), but also the cascades of electrical insulators hanging from pylons like the autumn harvest from the orchard’s branches. The design’s metaphorical progeny – an electric motor – lies below the central star.
Moreover, in taking the images out of their environment, removing them from the sinister context of art as political propaganda, Rozanov succeeds in conveying their elegance and artistic power. He is sending an enduring and important message: The value of human artistic achievement will always outlive any attempted manipulation by political forces.
Often we are confronted by elegant, challenging figures, harking back to the age of antiquity. These ‘petrified women’ convey an inner strength and indomitable determination that is a universal quality of the female sex, not of a political system. (see picture at top and left)
In the ancient world, unpopular Roman emperors commissioned grandiose, elaborate sculptures and buildings to convince the people of the righteousness of their reign. Now, some thousands of years later, those images and other creations of the artists live on whilst the particular political point the commissioner tried to reinforce has been completely lost to time and indifference. So it is and will be with the relics of the USSR. They are assuming a new and significant worth that will slowly leave their totalitarian roots far behind. Rozanov is doing his part to accelerate this, and he’s doing it very well.
The exhibition is a delight for the eye and great brainfood. With a minimalist panache, Svetlana Taylor, the curator, lets the works speak for themselves in a cool and efficient way, maintaining the clarity and concentrating on the purpose.
Do go along. Aesthetic and philosophical satisfaction guaranteed.
Park Kultury metro, Museum of Moscow, Korpus 1.
Entrance is 200 Roubles
All images used in this article are courtesy of the photographer.