Pousttchi’s Double Monuments at the Phillips soar toward the ceiling as Tatlin’s did, but his model was symbolic of larger things to come. If constructed, his glass and iron sculpture would have been 1,300 feet (about 300 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower). The model was meant to promote “the collective” and (re)establish the visual culture of Russia. Pousttchi’s Double Monuments aren’t necessarily commenting on that idea, but much of their power and meaning is drawn from that history.
Pousttchi uses Dan Flavin’s trademark fluorescent tubes to expand that history. In the 1960s, American artist Dan Flavin utilized neon tubes to explore minimalism and the role of art in the gallery. Interestingly, he created a series responding to Tatlin’s monument. Pousttchi disrupts Dan Flavin’s minimalist language and places fluorescent tubes within bent metal crowd barriers. She simultaneously comments on Flavin’s homage and removes a key element of Flavin’s works; her fluorescent lights are not alone in a gallery space as Flavin’s are, but rather are enveloped by the skeleton of Tatlin’s monument.
Tatlin sought to usher in a new era of Russian visual culture and politics. Flavin was attempting to disrupt the idea of the gallery. Pousttchi comments on history and the work that came before to explore her own ambitions and artistic practice.
“There was a moment I had the idea to make these towers, so I transformed them more in a round shape, stacked them on top of each other so they look like these monuments to the Third International that Vladimir Tatlin did.” Bettina Pousttchi discusses her Intersections installation Double Monuments on view at the Phillips.
Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenovic and Bettina Pousttchi with the artist’s Double Monuments. Photo: Rhiannon Newman
Artists Bettina Pousttchi, Vladimir Tatlin, and Dan Flavin each present complex, layered art that reflects on the past and the present. Their work captures the attention of the viewer and reveals the ambitions of each artist.
In 1920s Russia, the Constructivist sculptor-architect Vladimir Tatlin led a government program to replace tsarist-era monuments with new public celebrations of the recently established regime and this new period in Russian history. Tatlin’s ideas for the nation’s new artistic practices favored abstraction over figurative representations of revolution heroes, and he proposed the Monument to the Third International, a soaring structure of iron and glass, two modern materials meant to emphasize the modernity of the Soviet nation. Russia was by no means an industrialized nation at the time; when a wooden model of the structure was paraded through the streets it was on a horse-drawn wagon. This model represented the aspirations and hopes for post-revolution Russia.
Tatlin’s monument was intended to be a celebration of the revolution and new communist regime as well as the headquarters of the Third International, known as the International Organization of Communist Parties or the Comintern. The building focused on the collective and the glass was meant to symbolically represent the transparency of the Third International. This structure, representing ingenuity and modernity, was never built.
This is a multi-part blog post; check back next week for Part 2.