Flashback no. 3: Robert Longo at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (19 October 2016)
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Discovery no. 1: Gorky Park is a name I used to associate with a spy movie from the 80s. Now I know where it is, it took me well over an hour to walk there on a cold, wind-swept autumn day. The park, of which sadly I only saw a fraction, is also the home of Garage, founded in 2008 by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and his former spouse Dasha Zhukova.
Discovery no. 2: I had not come across the work of Robert Longo before, it was one of those unexpected and wonderful events that make you feel a bit silly (as in 'how on earth did I not know of him?'), but also incredibly fortunate. The pieces I saw at Garage were huge in both scale and expressiveness. Internationally-acclaimed curator Francesco Bonami recently gave a definition of scale that I think fits Longo's work like a glove: 'Scale is the perfect balance between your idea, the image and the space.' Longo's monumental images filled the museum space producing an immersive and almost overwhelming experience of sheer awe. Glaciers, trees, an angel wing (my personal favourite), pilgrims circling round the Kaaba, ocean waves - through these epic narratives he deals with life's big themes: religion, power, politics.
Discovery no. 3: Longo's medium of choice is charcoal. Yes, charcoal. No, these are not photographs.I know, that was another moment of mixed silliness and amazement. Longo's technique is supreme, his virtuosity is absolutely extraordinary, and I wonder how long it must take him to complete these labour-intensive works. I like this quote where he describes his relationship with the medium: 'Charcoal is this incredibly fragile material. I’m making images of paintings out of dust.'