A collaboration between
VALENTIN POPOV & DREW ALTIZER
Saturday, January 14, 2023, 4-6 P.M.
Kim Eagles-Smith Gallery • 23 Sunnyside Ave. Mill Valley CA, 94941
AN ARTIST AS THE ART OBJECT
Drew Altizer and Valentin Popov describe DREAM as collaboration. But if the former stays within his domain of photography, the latter adds to his métier as an artist another dimension, becoming a model for Altizer’s lens. These are the portraits, and what is in focus is Popov’s face. Such a denouement for the author of the magnificent FACE is unexpected, to say the least. Granted the catalog had a few of Popov’s self-portraits, which were clearly included with ironic intentions. Now his face is the very subject of Altizer’s pictures. It appears as expressive as it could be expected.
Popov’s face is dressed in heavy rimmed glasses, which establish the border between the artist who becomes the art object and what lies beyond or what he is surrounded with. It could be a dream, but it could very well be reality. Popov’s glasses serve as a reminder of such ambivalence, and also raise doubt whether we should believe collaborators in choosing such a poetic title for their artistic enterprise. If the reality is disturbing, your dreams turn on you. They envelope you in terror. They invoke suffering rather than revelation.
Altizer’s pictures of Popov’s face wrapped in plastic might convey exactly that. When the reality reaches the edge of disaster, your dream sways into a nightmare, which utterly engulfs you. Then you cannot help feeling stifled, out of breath, suffocating. This is the nadir of artist’s existence. In Popov’s case the tension stems from three hundred days of witnessing the terrible war against his native Ukraine, the constant attacks against his beloved Kiev. How can one breathe if the very air of your existence is poisoned? Altizer chronicles Popov’s state of despair, his suffering, his attempts to break this spell, to wake up.
This is why the series is called DREAM, because when the artist suffocates he wakes up. When the artist wakes up he seeks to overcome his circumstances and to transform reality the only way he knows – through Art. The magisterial idea of Art to save each and any one of us, all of us, from oblivion remains defining. The artist goes through crucible to set on his journey back, away from those images that his dreams might have invoked. Here Altizer and Popov undertake that journey together. The counterpoint is constructed from twenty seven pictures that follow their passage. Step by step, like in Joseph Brodsky’s “Letters from the Ming Dynasty”:
“A thousand-li-long road starts with the first step,” as
the proverb goes. Pity the road home does
not depend on that same step. It exceeds ten times
a thousand li, especially counting from zeros.
Their road home is their return back to Art. And they appear to be the perfect traveling companions to undertake that artistic journey.