Under the gallery is nostalgy
by Valentin Dyakonov
Alisa Yoffe, now a scholar of the Joseph Brodsky Fellowship Fund and a resident of the American Academy in Rome, had a long way to the current monochromatic expressionism. Her first works notable on group exhibitions consisted of embroidery based on the ornament from the Russian passport. Invented by Yoffe, the conceptual matching between bureaucratic discipline and scholastic perseverance were loosening and untwisting like a spring over the years. At the present time, Yoffe makes powerful half-abstract murals, sometimes with an obvious political plot. Iconography of punk culture and art brut is barely discernible distinguishable in clots of surrealistic shapes. This is what the political caricature would look like if released from urgency/urgent matters.
Alisa Yoffe's work from the «Vice versa» exposition
Valery Chtak, vice versa, doesn't change, but, to his credit, doesn't specify himself with every new exposition. In «Vice versa» , as usual, there are works that immediately stuck in memory like catchy proverbs («Rhinoceros vs. Unicorn», «Machines against the machine»). But there are also fragmentary expressions in different languages and alphabets - the guerrilla war against English, Esperanto and emojis, led by a loner or, as Ekaterina Degot would say, by a «linguistic maniac». Chtak's love for anatomically interesting words sometimes brings back to life such terms that are inexplicable even in Russian. For instance, the word «latitudinarians» has completely disappeared from Google search and can only be found through Yandex.
Valery Chtak's work from the «Vice versa» exposition
They turned out to be exhibited together because Yoffe and Chtak are often told that they are similar. But they're not, as the name of the exhibition «Vice versa» implies. If that's the case, black-and-white gamma could claim everybody to be associates (q.v. The exhibition «Proof: Francisco Goya, Sergei Eisenstein, Robert Longo» in «Garage Museum»). But, due to the demonstrative refusal to acknowledge the similarity, we want to somehow discover it.

The matching of Yoffe and Chtak is necessarily located between Osip Mandelshtam's point of view («do not compare: what lives is incomparable») and Goethe's reasoning that analogies are «like good society, which always suggests more than it grants». In case of the «Vice verca» exhibition, manifested difference makes the observer act like a botanist and trace analogies while descending from leaves and roots to the roots. And than, somewhere near the root layer, the mutual virtual platform can be defined for both artists – the street. A professional biography is not that important here: with a few exceptions consisting of works ordered especially by institutions (by «Vinzavod», «The Ural Industrial Biennale» e.t.c.), Yoffe and Chtak were not involved in street art or activism. In concrete historical sence, the street is an unreachable horizon yet for them, but personal artistic events, such as their works, survive, at least by now, in the laboratory space of galleries and museums. Nevertheless, it's easy to imagine Yoffe and Chtak's paintings on those streets that could be conceptually affiliated with their aestethics and political positions. Chtak could dissolve into subway party of New York graffitists and paint not far away from Samo (now known as Jean-Michel Basquiat). Yoffe could easily be seen in a crowd of anarcho-syndicalists decorating the Paris in 1968 or student's strikes in Europe with slogans a-la «Under the pavement – the beach!». So that the city wall becomes a substrate for their works – not real substrate like paper or canvas, but the ideal one – and Yoffe and Chtak's images are easily transferable onto it. They are ready to jump off from their base and spread through a thankful crowd, as long as this crowd exists in the first place. And the big question is whether it could even exist in current era of targeted interaction with communities on the level of both marketing and activism. Total ideological outbursts rushing out into the streets are well-organized, like meetings in support for «Edinaya Rossia», or speak languages Chtak has not explored yet (for example, Arabic). And again, univocal black-and-white type of freedom suitable for crossing barricades usually unites new classes, but clinical picture of oppressed conditions is too much difficult nowadays.

Valery Chtak's work from the «Vice versa» exposition
The essey was published at site Arterrytory.com
Original publication is here
English translation of the text is by Ivan Loginov