Three Cameras January 30 - February 19, 2014

Lev Poliakov, Maria Plavinsky, Pavel Romaniko


Mimi Ferzt Gallery is pleased to present Three Cameras, a group exhibition of photography by Lev Poliakov, Maria Plavinsky and Pavel Romaniko. Representing three different generations and approaches to artistic photography, Poliakov, Plavinsky and Romaniko share the same affectionate sentiment towards their native country and the passionate preservation of the past. Each artist found a unique way to safeguard their memories: Poliakov by registering his diverse experiences of the everyday life in the Soviet Union, Romaniko by re-creating the interiors of Russian apartments to photograph them, and Plavinsky by documenting the journey to Prague and visiting the Old Jewish cemetery in the company of her late husband Dmitry Plavinsky (1937- 2012), one of the most influential Russian non-conformist artists of the twentieth century.

Born in 1934 in St. Petersburg, (then Leningrad), Lev Poliakov relocated to the United States to become a staff photographer at the Cousteau Society. The renowned publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux released “Russia: A Portrait”, a comprehensive album of the artist`s output, with a foreword by of the Nobel prize winning poet Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

His affectionate lens is equally attentive to the world of a regular city dweller, an elderly villager, a celebrity in the moment of fame or contemplation, or a piece of architecture reflecting the course of Russian history. Three Cameras at Mimi Ferzt Gallery proudly features Poliakov`s celebrated portrait of Joseph Brodsky taken on the day of his relocation to the United States in 1972. “Marlene Dietrich” (silver gelatin print, Leningrad, 1964-1999) and “Ernst Neizvestny” (silver gelatin print, USA, 1978-2011) reconfirm Poliakov`s reputation of an insightful portraitist – photographer. Dietrich, an American actress and singer of German descent, visited Leningrad in 1964. By breaking the actress’s vehement ban on photographing her during the tour, Lev Poliakov won Dietrich` respect and was allowed additional shooting. Clad in gorgeous furs, the actress strikes a dramatic pose against the pitch black background, an epitome of extreme talent, glamour and exoticism.

Neizvestny, an eminent Moscow sculptor, is captured in the moment of an avid telephone discussion, reflecting the artist’s passionate nature. “KGB Headquarters” (silver gelatin print, Leningrad, Russia 1968 -1976) features an imposing image of the center of operations of the once-feared Soviet organization. Assigned to photograph the birthday celebration of one of the chief officers, Poliakov secretly photographed the courtyard of the building, masterfully capturing its menacing atmosphere. “At Work” (1967-1976), depicting a female worker in charge of road repair machinery, perfectly exemplifies rough conditions of national Russian labor. Lev Poliakov lives and works in New York.

Pavel Romaniko was born in Pereslavl – Zalesk, near Moscow, in 1980. He received his MFA in Imaging Arts from Rochester Institute of Technology. His work has been featured in numerous international exhibitions, including Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago. Romaniko divides his time between Moscow and Denton, TX.

The exhibition at Mimi Ferzt debutes Romaniko`s project titled “Nostalgia” commenced in 2008. “Nostalgia” consists of photographs of miniature paper versions of Russian interiors. The artist describes this project as “a reflection on the topic of exile, home and a ..relationship with one’s past and belonging”. Romaniko manifests his curiosity and the desire to conserve history through the precise re – construction of the modest yet so precious details of a Russian household or office. Devoid of human presence, Romaniko`s interiors bear an almost palpable air of uncertainty and the urge for change emblematic of Russian social and political landscape. “Kitchen” (2008, pigment print on archival paper) documents the Soviet residential experiment known as communal apartment. The artist deliberately eschews the haphazard dynamics of the communal cooking, allowing the viewer to reflect upon the peculiarities of communal living, both intimate and public. “Work Desk” (2008, pigment print on archival paper) is the artist’s tribute to Russia’s ominous past, with Joseph Stalin`s portrait hovering over a vintage piece of furniture, with paperwork scattered on the floor.

Three Cameras includes “Stones of Memory”, a series of photographs taken by Maria Plavinsky while traveling to Prague together with her husband, Dmitry Plavinsky. Born in 1952 in Moscow, Maria Plavinsky received her MA in Art History from MoscowStateUniversity. Simultaneously studying photography, Plavinsky exhibited her work at various Moscow art institutions. Her photographs were first featured in the comprehensive monograph on Dmitry Plavinsky published by Rizolli International in New York in 2000. Maria Plavinsky lives and works in Moscow.

The trip to Prague and the resulting series was inspired by the reading of the novel by Gustav Meyrink Der Golem. The novel centers on Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the 16th Century rabbi who created the golem, an anthropomorphic entity to protect the Jews of Prague. The artists were enthralled by the magic atmosphere of the medieval city, especially by the Old Jewish Cemetery, the oldest surviving Jewish graveyard, where Loew ben Bezalel is buried. Plavinsky is inspired by the romantic unruly groupings of intricately carved ancient tombstones, their shades ranging from delicate pink to moss green. Seen through her idealistic lens, the Old Jewish Cemetery regains its status of a place of quite meditative contemplation.