Andrei Molodokin

© 2004 Andrei Molodokin

Iraqi Crude Oil In The Form Of Cherubim

Wow. This is probably some of the most amazing work I’ve seen in a while. Just take a look at the detailed shots of Iraqi Crude Oil In The Form Of Jesus from his Our Heritage (or Sucky Good, Fucky Good) show in 2004. Trying to follow his process of creation and concept becomes a socio-political form of poetry, sprinkled with terms culled from the world of crude oil, leftist theory and finance, as well as cutting edge casting techniques. The works have a monumental presence, like that of antiquity, despite the anachronistic presence of tubes, clamps and pumps that deliver the sickly black liquid (or they look that way from the photos, at least). As the oil displaces the negative forms, it resembles an insect trapped in amber, preserved by forces that it cannot control. Apollo’s severed head pays penance while his no-longer-marble eyes continue to stare straight ahead, oblivious. Jesus is slowly resuscitated but he is turned upside down, negating the iconic form but also reinforcing its critique as icon. Though the textual pieces are a bit more shallow in terms of conceptual heft, the sculptures more than make up the difference.

Molodokin represented Russia at the Venice Biennale last year with a version of Nike (Victory) of Samothrace that utilized blood and light projection to pretty good effect. Though I prefer the oil sculptures, the Biennale piece seems to me to be a bridge to the work he is considering next. It is this marriage of commerce, politics and art that makes his work so unique and entertaining. Yes, I called it entertaining. It’s a term with which he would quibble, I’m sure. But the point is that this work is arrestingly entertaining; it rises above what normally passes for the stuff and it does so while preserving a deadly serious dialog. That he is interested in procuring volunteers that are AIDS victims in order to speed up the process of constructing sculptures shows a remarkable perception for the connection of spirituality and humanity. Some might regard it as callous, but life and death are not generally soft and cuddly affairs and the balance between respecting faiths and defying their expectations is one which Molodokin handles remarkably.

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