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Contemporary collage from Central Asia on view at Sapar Contemporary
Saule Dyussenbina, Self-Portrait, 2018. Single-channel video.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sapar Contemporary in collaboration with Aspan Gallery (Almaty) is presenting Beyond Fragmentation: Contemporary Collage from Central Asia. Since antiquity, Central Asia has been a nexus of trade and cultural exchange, where caravans laden with precious goods crisscrossed the desert sands along the Silk Road carrying with them new religions like Buddhism and Islam. Renowned geographer Owen Lattimore (1900–1989) characterized Central Asia as the “Pivot of Asia,” for its importance in shaping and directing global history and cultural exchange.During the nineteenth century, in a conflict dubbed “The Great Game,” the British and Russian Empires jostled over this region, which spans from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east, for supremacy over this politically strategic territory rich in natural resources.

Today, Central Asia is a region comprised of a diverse ethnic mixture of diasporic communities and indigenous nomadic tribes, the names of which– Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Tajik, and Uzbek­–combined with the Persian suffix “stan” or “land of” to form the five countries that comprise this region. The assemblage art of collage is an ideal artistic technique for encapsulating not only the fragmented cultural multiplicity of Central Asia, but also its complex and multifaceted history. While collage, from the French word coller “to glue,” has a long history dating back to invention of paper in China around 200 BCE, it was in the twentieth century that collage assumed its significance as a quintessential modernist artistic technique for expressing relevant, contemporary issues. The assemblage of multiple layers and fragmented images in collages produce new concepts and ideas from unexpected juxtaposition, that in the process engender new possibilities and meanings. From the photomontage of Vyacheslav Akhunov to the gif-animations of Saule Dyussenbina Beyond Fragmentation offers insight into the geopolitical realities of contemporary Central Asia.

Vyacheslav Akhunov is an artist, writer and philosopher. His practice comprises collage, painting, installation, performance and moving image, as well as numerous essays and novels. Since 2000 Akhunov has been investigating the possibilities of new media, especially video. From the peripheral position of an artist who lives in Tashkent, his artistic production is connected to the experience of 1970s Moscow Conceptualism. He uses the typical iconography of the Socialist propaganda of the Soviet period, subverting the then dominant ideology through the manipulation of propagandistic images. His work tackles the ironies of perceived cultural marginality as well as the power of difference. Notable recent exhibitions include 2nd Yinchuan Biennale (2018), Quand Fondra la Neige où Ira le Blanc at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice (2016), BALAGAN!!! in Berlin (2015), 5th Moscow Biennale (2013), Central Asia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2013, 2007, 2005), 1st Kyiv Biennale (2012), Documenta (13), Kassel (2011), Ostalgia at the New Museum in New York (2011), Time of the Storytellers at KIASMA in Helsinki (2007), La Biennale de Montréal (2007) and 1st Singapore Biennale (2006).

Alexander Ugay deals with the issues of memory and nostalgia, exploring the complex
interaction of the historical past, current reality and the future. Many of Ugay’s projects investigate the relationships between collective and personal memory, collective and personal space, focusing on the concept of time and its flows. Notable recent exhibitions include Eurasian Utopia: Post Scriptum at the Suwon I’Park Museum of Art in Suwon (2018), Phantom Stories: Leitmotifs of Post-Soviet Asia at the Lunds konsthall in Lund (2018), More than an Image, Less than an Object at Galeria Labirynt in Lublin (2017), Festivities Are Cancelled! at the Kyiv Biennale (2017), 6th Moscow Biennale (2015), Busan Biennale (2014), Promises of the Past at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2010), Younger Than Jesus at the New Museum in New York (2009) and 9th Istanbul Biennale (2005).

Bakhyt Bubikanova works in a variety of techniques — painting, collage, installation,
performance, photography and video art. Today she is one of the most prominent figures among the younger generation of Kazakhstani artists. In her work the artist primarily reflects on the paradoxical elements of everyday life of the local population. Bubikanova skillfully combines the local and global meanings, creating an artistic slice of reality of the Central Asian region. Notable recent exhibitions include Eurasian Utopia: Post Scriptum at the Suwon I’Park Museum of Art in Suwon (2018), Suns and Neons above Kazakhstan at the Yarat in Baku (2017), La vie est une légende e.cité – Almaty/Kazakhstan at the Museé d’Art Moderne et Contemporain in Strasbourg (2014), the 4th International Biennale for Young Art in Moscow (2014) and Face of the Bride at the PERMM Museum of Contemporary Art in Perm (2012).

Saule Dyussenbina’s The practice of Saule Dyussenbina is interesting not only by the presentation of each project by itself, but also by its organic dynamic that crosses several border states. The artist is using traditional mediums of drawing and painting, by studying the objective world around, her home, her body, her history and memory. These studies gradually lead her to the creation of assemblages, including not only painted and written images, but also objects, photo materials, fabrics, natural objects, digital collages and GIF animations, that can circulate online endlessly. Notable recent exhibitions include Post-Nomadic Mind at the Wapping Project in London (2018) and the Postcolonial Art of Central Asia at the Gedok Gallery in Karlsruhe (2018).

Yelena and Viktor Vorobyev have been working together since 1990s. Their usage of
different genres and techniques results in multi-layered, often ironic, works focussing on Post-Soviet realities of constant change, disorientation and their effects on everyday life.The artists have been compiling a precise record of the ephemeral and quotidian details of daily life, local particulars, subjects that have been often overlooked and are not exactly photogenic. While seemingly insignificant, these details (of objects, colors and customs) are integral to the creation of the new symbols of power and serve as poignant social metaphors. The pair engages deeply with the environment they live in, examining its socio-cultural underlining, using a light and humorous approach. In 2015 Vorobyevs' mid-career retrospective The Artist Is Asleep curated by Viktor Misiano took place at the A. Kasteev Museum of Arts, Almaty. Notable recent group shows include Viva Arte Viva, 57th Venice Biennale (2017), 8th Asia-Pacific Triennale in Brisbane (2015), BALAGAN!!! in Berlin (2015), The Beast and the Sovereign at MACBA in Barcelona and Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart (2015), 1st Kyiv Biennale (2012), 14th Sculpture Biennale of Carrara (2010) and Central Asia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2009, 2007, 2005)

Kris Imants Ercums received his PhD from the University of Chicago, and has been Curator of Global Contemporary and Asian Art at the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas since 2007. Recently he completed a researcher residency at the Korean National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

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