Nikolay Bakharev

Amateurs and Lovers

July 10 - August 16, 2013

We are pleased to announce that Siberian photographer Nikolay Bakharev (b.1946) will have his first solo exhibition in the United States. Bakharev appeared in the US in the 2011 Ostalgia exhibition at the New Museum which gathered art from Eastern European countries with a curious nostalgia for a difficult past. Massimiliano Gioni curated that show and has included Bakharev in the Encylopedic Palace compilation of over 100 international artists in the Central Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale.

Bakharev's work has historically been divided between private and public. In 2012 we included a selection of the public work in a three-person show along with Miroslav Tichy and Gerard Fieret. In Amateurs and Lovers we will combine images from both private series, made between 1980 and the present. During the Soviet era it was illegal to photograph nudes in Russia, so the public bathers provided a surrogate. Taking on the role of "beach photographer" enabled Bakharev to both earn a living and depict his subjects in a much more revealing way then was officially permitted. He carefully arranges his subjects into compelling poses in which the physical contact is erotically charged, and at the same time display vulnerability and elegance. Later, Bakharev arranged to photograph his subjects at home, often having met them at the beach. While the private images of women or couples photographed nude in their homes are more provocative and overtly sexual, they are also homey, with strange selections of objects inserted into the interiors including books, paintings and liqueur bottles that seem to indicate a hidden but deliberate iconography.

As a critic in the Economist said of the Ostalgia show: "All of this art is political, by the simple act of its creation." Bakharev was an orphan (his parents died when he was four) who worked as a mechanic until he developed his profession as a self-trained photographer. He grew up in East Russia near Mongolia where he still lives. The beautifully printed and modestly scaled black and white photographs of Amateurs and Lovers are serious and playful, mysterious and direct, connected to other photographers (Arbus, Judith Joy Ross, Nicholas Nixon) and very much their own vision. Bakharev is included in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Dashwood Books has recently published a monograph on Bakharev titled Amateurs and Lovers and reproduced the eponymous essay by Ektaterina Degot which appeared in the monograph People of Town N published in Russia in 2009.

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