JTF (just the facts): A total of 21 color photographs, framed in black and matted, and hung against white walls (some with a taupe stripe) in the single room gallery space. All of the works are c-prints, made between 2005 and 2010. Each of the prints is sized roughly 12×18, and is available in an edition of 15. This is the photographer’s first solo show in New York. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: Russian photojournalist Sergey Maximishin’s images of Siberia aren’t what you might expect. Sure, there are the visual clichés of the frozen tundra, the soulless apartment blocks, the polluted skies, and the relentlessness of winter, but Maximishin’s pictures are far from a catalog of dreariness. He has an eye for the sparkle of life that pokes its head above the enveloping grey, that fleeting moment of serendipity that makes the depressing reality of the environment just a tad less crushingly bleak.
Many of Maximishin’s best photographs turn on a visual juxtaposition, where a dash of humanism is inserted into an otherwise grim situation. Bundled up citizens trudge through the snow against a painted mural backdrop of bright orange flowers and butterflies, while kids scramble all over a dour looking statue of Lenin. Maximishin’s children seem to find an endless number of ways to make fun amid the squalor: hiding inside an a-frame structure, playing follow the leader in perilously smoky ruins, imagining a boat ride via a toy dragged through the sand, and diving off submerged statues in the waters of Vladivostok. Other images are more pattern driven: the intersection of tram wires and the jutting spires of a Lenin memorial, the stripes of pink and blue paint on an apartment block, and the frozen verticals of a fish stall, with all of the fish stood on end. There are even moments of pop culture humor: a jaunty ad for Paris hung amid the huddled frozen pedestrians, a fashion magazine being read by two unlikely faces, and some stylish white boots paired with a massive fur.
What’s interesting here is that Maximishin’s realism isn’t dour; it doesn’t give in to pessimism. It would have been easy to make predictably ugly pictures of this environment, but he has chosen to do something harder – to tell a story of harshness, but with a silver lining of hope. Even amid the obvious decay, Maximishin’s gold toothed ferry driver has a broad grin.
Collector’s POV: All of the prints on view in this show are priced at $2500. Maximishin’s work has very little secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.