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David Ter-Oganyan, winner of the Henkel Art.Award. 2011, exhibits at mumok
David Ter-Oganyan, protests near griboedov5.sketch, 2009. Digital drawing, various dimensions. © David Ter-Oganyan.

VIENNA.- The winner of the Henkel Art.Award. 2011 David Ter-Oganyan was born in 1981 in Rostov-on-Don and lives in Moscow. The mumok hosts his first institutional solo exhibition which in the autumn will also be shown in the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (MAMM).

Drawing as a means of immediate response
David Ter-Oganyan works in numerous media. Alongside collectively realized actions, installations, and diverse projects – including curatorial activities – his oeuvre consists of paintings, drawings, object art, photography and video. At the mumok, he exclusively shows drawings – a form of artistic expression which more than any other enables him to react and comment directly on what he encounters and what moves him. The breadth of the subject matter he deals with in these drawings is extensive, ranging from personal existential experiences to reflections on art or to an analysis of social and political life in Russia. Violence and the necessity of opposing it are central themes of his work. His formal repertoire is varied, equally encompassing abstraction and figuration.

For several years, Ter-Oganyan has made most of his drawings on the computer and they are then, according to the specific situation, transferred to different media, printing them on paper or canvas, or presenting them in slide-shows. The exhibition at the mumok is a room-sized installation with multiple slide projections with sound by Dowdy (Evgenii Uvarovskii).

Critical-activist strategies
David Ter-Oganyan is an important protagonist of actionist-activist tendencies in Russian art developed in the 1990s and 2000s that are critical both of the art world and the political system. In the accompanying discourse on the relevance and potential of artistic work in a field of tension between social and political reflection, on the one hand, and artistic autonomy, on the other, he holds a position that links the two poles in a remarkable manner. Particularly his drawings show that in his case activist-critical strategies are always connected to very precise formal solutions, not least based on reflections on the history of art.

Artistic education and development
His father the activist artist Avdey Stepanovich Ter-Oganyan, a central figure in the Moscow art scene during the 1990s no doubt played an important role in David Ter-Oganyan’s artistic development. Avdey Ter-Oganyan made a legendary performance in the exhibition hall Manege entitled Desecration of Holy Objects on December 4, 1998, during which, he chopped up photographic reproductions of religious icons in order to criticize the complicity of the church with political and financial power in post-Soviet Russia. The performance resulted in criminal charges made against the artist who has been living in Prague in exile since.

Before this, Avdey Ter-Oganyan had run an art school in Moscow that his son also attended. Another teacher who played a formative role in David Ter-Oganyan’s life was the artist, theorist and political activist Anatoly Osmolovsky, the strategy of whose actions, exhibitions and manifestos was also an opposition to the complicity of capital and power in politics and the arts. The magazine Radek published by him – and named after Karl Radek, onetime associate of Lenin – later became the name of an artist collective that worked together until 2004/2005 in which Osmolovsky, Avdey Ter-Oganyan and their students and other younger artists were active. David Ter-Oganyan was one of the principal figures in this group, taking part in many of its activities.

Pussy Riot as a cover subject
David Ter-Oganyan’s choice of a drawing showing the Muscovite feminist artist group Pussy Riot on the cover of his catalog is yet another proof of his activist approach as well as his conviction of the necessity of collective action. With their recent sensational performance, which has increasingly gained international attention, Pussy Riot has set off an important debate in Russia. On February 21, 2012, as punk rockers with masked faces, they sang “Holy Mary, blessed Virgin, be rid of Putin!” in the Christ the Savior Cathedral – also in order to refer to the machist nature of the collusion of the Church and political power in Russia. Three of the artists suspected to have participated in the action have since been held in custody by the authorities. They face long prison sentences that are intended to act as a deterrent.

14 renowned Austrian art institutions including the mumok have expressed their concern in an open letter – with four more joining the list after its publication.

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