Valera & Natasha: Cherkashin, 1960- Present at Klotz Gallery

A Week of Cutting Hair - End of Hippie, 1972  © Valera & Natasha Cherkashin - Courtesy of the Alan Klotz Gallery, NY

A Week of Cutting Hair - End of Hippie, 1972 © Valera & Natasha Cherkashin - Courtesy of the Alan Klotz Gallery, NY

Klotz Gallery presents CHERKASHIN , 1960 - Present by Valera & Natasha.

Before Valera Cherkashin met Natasha, his soon to be wife and collaborator, there was plenty of drama and change in his own work. When they got together and started playing off each other as an inspirational team, the pace really picked up and their frames became quite crowded.

Valera started off, as most young men do, by horsing around with his friends. There was a lot of weight-lifter posturing and vodka bottles and youthful preening hijinks. Valera soon exchanged the tatty backyards for the refinement of the salon (I am an Actor Series, 1966), complete with pseudo-waiters garb, aperitifs, and lounge-lizard soulful eyes - very contained. By 1972 he was ready for a change so a haircut seemed to be in order (The Haircut Series, 1972), doesn’t that always signal change? This one was seismic. Over a period of a week we watched as Valera gradually shed his Wildman locks, temporarily saw him, in transition, as a puckish satyr, until finally he emerges, after many facial tremors, and after-shocks, as a latter-day Mayakovsky by Rodchenko… only this time his face and pate are contained by a stocking, which seems as much a surprise to him as it is to us. Far from the usual sinister nature of such a mask, he seems more of a vibrating free-spirit just temporarily sedated. The series just bubbles over with metamorphosing energy caught in the act of becoming aware of itself.

After the transformative haircut, Valera proceeds to reinvent the Adam and Eve story (Story with an Apple, 1981), with trousers and hats replacing the forest’s leaves (but keeping the original apple). The characters are contained within lines he now applies by hand to the surface of the photographs. It is the first indication of a crystallization of the image which eventually pervades their future work, like a tale foretold. The shattering of the image sends shards of dangerous fragments of uncertainty throughout their work. Realism and order are not dependable ways of representing the world of their experience, and their doubts about the safety of believing in societal order. But for Valera humor is never far away, even our imperfectly constructed frames of reference (Symbol in a Window, 1981) can barely be counted on to contain us. Our posturing becomes antic,and risible.

Valera and Natasha, he is Ukrainian, she is Russian, met in 1982 in the Moscow metro and begin their collaboration like a couple of ballroom dancers gliding around the floor, first with one of them “leading” and | P a g e then the other. Their images seemed to grow in accumulated sedimentary layers, representing the serial contributions of each. Of course certain characteristics are usually in evidence…Valera’s humor and theatrical proclivities continue (People’s Love of Art for the People Series, 1994), as is the physical interventions on the work, now including, the crumpling of the photographic paper, collage, montage, and the application of drawing and painting (The Mirage of Empire Series, 1999). To this is added the importance of community as a major content component of the work, and the social (if not socialist) aspects of their art. Also, in the way the images are structured, the Cherkashins are sardonically mindful, yet, in an almost elegiac way, of the tradition of Socialist Realism, and Russian Constructivism.

Then, in 1999, another major transformation took place, but instead of a manic haircut, this time it took the form of an introduction to digital manipulation and printing. The Cherkashins were asked by Charlie Traub to give a talk on their work at The School of Visual Arts. After the talk he suggested to them that instead of continuing to spend long hours doing all the hand-work that was necessary to make their pictures, they should learn how to do this on a computer. He then pointed them to the School’s computer lab, assigned a technician to help them.

After three days of total immersion they emerged with New York, Square 1. It was Square 1 in more ways than one! Images could be repeated in various scales, or flipped, or colored. No longer did they have to wait for things to come together by chance…they could create the fabric of their world, by design, from component parts, and lots of them. It allowed them to create homages to Indian miniatures and temple drawings (Fashion, Dance, Ballet, and Yoga Series), and to digitally generate New York City street scenes populated by Giants, reflecting the excitement of just being on the street, as a walker in the city that never sleeps, nor stops for a red light (New York Monuments Series, 2008 etc.).

In 2005 they begin the Global Underground Series, which is ongoing. It will document public transportation subways in 33 countries. The pictures are made up of moments when the platform and the people standing there are seen in quick glances as the eye randomly scans the scene for flashes of information. These are images of the transportation system as a series of still-frames piled on top of each other. Everything - platforms, girders, signage, and riders are all seen in transit. We will be showing one of their earliest ones, Times Square Station, 2005, all 10 feet of it, at our booth #314 at this year’s AIPAD Photography Show April 4th-7th at the Park Avenue Armory.

Some of the Cherkashin’s works are often records of Happenings they organized along the lines of those presented by the Dadaists shortly after WWI, and later in the 1960’s by Allan Kaprow.

They have produced large video installations, and monumental pieces, including a staggering memorial to 9/11 which they showed in 2002 at the Russian State Museum. The size of some of their works is truly operatic in scale. They allow for a grandeur not often achieved in photography. They show no sign of lacking in ideas, or of areas of investigation. I am waiting for them to start exploring the possibilities offered by unmanned drones to gather their images.

Venue: Klotz Gallery, 740 West End Avenue, *52, New York, NY 10025

Open: 1st March - 12th April 2013

For more information visit:


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    • Thanks for the kind words, always great to hear! And thank you to Klotz Gallery for sharing information and images with us to announce Valera & Natasha Cherkashin’s exhibition. More interesting content and interviews to come soon…

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