Maria Choulaki's black-and-white photographs depict compositions of form, line and light that portray details of abandoned buildings. The details of the specific structures, enfeebled by the absence of the liveliness of human presence, resemble hushed phrases from a coincidental conversation with the dynamic aesthetics of the Russian avant-garde from one hundred years ago. The title, After the avant-garde, can be interpreted as a reminder of the techniques and theories on art and life that were formulated in the work and texts of a multitude of great artists, who defined this historical aesthetic period that ended decades ago. Seen under a more dialectic approach, the title can also be construed to refer to the contemporary artistic work that "follows" or takes into account the aesthetic principles of the Russian avant-garde, thus declaring a creative continuity that is open to all forms of dialogue.
However, the artist's intention to juxtapose her own works to those of the Russian avant-garde entails no optimism. In the artist's own words regarding her project: "This is a rather pessimistic approach, which, while offering the opportunity for a genuine conversation, pronouncing a creative continuity of the aesthetics of the Russian Avant-garde, also reflects the precariousness of the contemporary artist. The compositions on the facades of buildings are more than lines and figures. They also encapsulate the emptiness of these homes. This emptiness refers to loss, fear and threat. A threat arising from the conviction that, 100 years after the Russian Avant-garde, art alone –no matter how intellectual– cannot change the world."
Maria Choulaki searched for geometries which become visible thanks to small details that usually go unnoticed. The moribund buildings are a reminder of the necessity of constructivism in the arts; but in this case the constructivist element and the emergence of form are not the creations of the artist herself. Instead, the photographer, following a different path, originating from deconstruction, noticed them only fortuitously, took them in her care and led us to them.
The reception of these black and white photographs in juxtaposition to Russian avant-garde paintings and drawings, which typically use intense colors, from the Costakis collection is open and multidimensional, because, ultimately, the choice of aesthetic attitude is the one that determines the verdict of the viewer: is this decline or regeneration?
MOMus-Museum of Contemporary Art-Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art and State Museum of Contemporary Art Collections