Review: “From Moscow with Love” — PDNB

[Originally published in The Dallas Morning News]

Forty representatives of the art world were invited to Moscow for Russia’s first International Photography Review. Dallas’s Burt Finger was among them and he returned home with a remarkable cache of work that runs the gamut from the political to the purely graphic to the ponderous. The latter is a strange appellation for visual art. However, Gregori Malofis jars us mightily with Photorealism.

We’re summoned into the artist’s studio and unwittingly become privy to the artistic process. Malofis sits in the foreground, palette in hand. He seems to be contemplating a ballerina (captured mid-flight) on his canvas. However, we also see an identical dancer levitating in mid-air. We’re left to assume that her impossibly extravagant pose inspires her twin image in the art piece. The implication, of course, is that the artist stalls things at their most extreme moment of beauty. The subtlety of being engulfed by Malofis’s studio gives the work huge seismic jolt.

Another artist featured in the show, Dmitry Beliakov, chronicled the Second Chechen War, widely known for unspeakable atrocities. February 4, 2000, Grozny Chechnya depicts a city reduced to rubble yet punctuated by the odd civility of a table setting. In the foreground, our vision is drawn to a ripped green armchair that’s thoroughly gutted and exudes an eerie vacancy. Two depicted human figures seem to be mere afterthoughts – which is appropriate, given the hideous toll of rape and genocide that characterized the war Beliakov documents.

“From Moscow with Love” isn’t an easy show. It’s better than that. It’s a powerful, smart and well-curated gem.

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