WHAT APPEARS TO DMITRI PRIGOV’S «POOR CLEANING LADY»?
WHAT APPEARS TO DMITRI PRIGOV’S «POOR CLEANING LADY»?/a gift to the moscow museum of modern art/
Curators: Andrey Egorov, Anna Arutyunyan
The Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA) is pleased to present an important new acquisition into its collection. It consists of ten graphic sheets from the 1990s featuring a depiction of two monsters, from the famous series «Installation for a Poor Cleaning Lady» by Dmitri Alexandrovich Prigov (1940-2007) — a poet and an artist, a foremost representative of Russian art in the second half of the twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries. The works were donated to the museum by his widow, Nadezhda Burova-Prigova, and are exhibited in one of the rooms in the MMOMA building at ulitsa Petrovka as part of the D.A. Prigov Week — a program of events in the capital’s museums and other cultural institutions marking the tenth anniversary of the artist’s passing.
To date, our museum — which in 2008 organized the first large-scale retrospective exhibition of Dmitri Prigov «Citizens! Please Mind Yourselves!» — has assembled a relatively compact, but quite representative corpus of his pieces, executed at different periods and in various media. These are the multi-part works on paper «The Large Egg» (1978), «Two Vertically Arranged Eyes» (1997) and «Mene, Tekel, Upharsin» (1997), the two compositions from the «Bestiary» series (1990s), the collage «Two Cups (Buddha)» (1996) and six objects from the late period project «Monuments» (2006) that combines performance and photography. The drawings now donated to the museum belong to an extensive group of sketches for the so-called phantom installations and reveal an essential aspect of Prigov’s creative heritage, remarkably complementing the museum’s collection.
The exhibition devoted to this donation, prepared by the MMOMA Research Department, not only demonstrates the newly acquired drawings amidst a selection of Prigov’s works from the museum’s holdings, as well as archival materials. It proposes the viewer to interpret the iconographic structure of the sketches, which may remind one of stills from a never-executed animated film, and try to understand the elements out of which their stage-like symbolic space is constructed. The focus is on the three motifs — each one archetypical for Prigov and each having its own abundant iconographic history: the kneeling figure seen from the back (that is the «poor cleaning lady» herself), the all-seeing eye and the ouroboros — the snake biting its own tale. Their genealogy, replete with meanings, goes back deep into the ages. Forming various combinations, these motifs add up to a complex, programmatically tautological and ultimately undecipherable statement. It is imbued with existential anxiety intermingled with the author’s recognizable sense of irony, and touches on life and death, on the place and role of the human being in the face of an unknown transcendental force, on the relationship between the viewer and the artist.
The Moscow Museum of Modern Art expresses its deep gratitude to Nadezhda Burova-Prigova and the D.A. Prigov Foundation for such a generous gift. The works of Dmitri Prigov have been constantly included in the museum’s thematic collection displays, and the donated sheets, of course, will not be an exception.