Angelology is a new large-scale installation project by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at The Model. This project takes the theme of angels – humanity’s imagination and romanticisation of angels especially – as its beginning point, and includes paintings, sculpture and mixed-media installations that fill the entire Model exhibition spaces.
Within the Kabakovs’ work, one can sense a tremendous desire for the betterment of humanity by humanity. Beyond religious ideologies, and not caught simply within sentimentalist, storybook narratives, their work employs the museum or gallery as a site of constructing a humanist universalism, often from forgotten pieces of history or via a recoding of familiar tropes, such as that of the angel. Ilya Kabakov has written of “the aura which comes from our past” as being “what stops us from sinking into oblivion, and what we call our culture, our interior world.” While philosophical nihilism and pessimism are often popular forms of representing the world, and in fact only perpetuate the world’s difficulties, the Kabakovs remind us, gently, of social utopias, child-like fantasy, faith in humanity, all without proselytising or moralising, for their gesture also contains a tender embrace of hopeful improvement for humanity, and a form of faith in its potential. Open and accessible, Angelology asks us to reconsider what we do really want to leave and to produce for future generations.
The Kabakovs are Russia’s foremost living artists. In 2008 they launched the Garage Centre for contemporary art in Moscow, exhibiting their total installations for the first time in twenty years since they left the country, and their exhibition Incident at the Museum and Other Installations at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg in 2004 was the first exhibition by living Russian artists ever to be held there.
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov are Russian-born, American-based artists that collaborate on environments which fuse elements of the everyday with those of the conceptual. While their work is deeply rooted in the Soviet social and cultural context in which the Kabakovs came of age, their work still attains a universal significance.
Their work has been shown in such venues as the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Documenta IX, at the Whitney Biennial in 1997 and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg among others. In 1993 they represented Russia at the 45th Venice Biennale with their installation The Red Pavilion. The Kabakovs have also completed many important public commissions throughout Europe and have received a number of honors and awards, including the Oscar Kokoschka Preis, Vienna, in 2002 and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Paris, in 1995.
The Kabakovs live and work in Long Island.