Russians are notorious for scribbling in their journals. Dostoevsky kept a diary and so did Anna, his wife. Celebrated Russian hoofer Nijinsky chronicled his descent into dementia during the six weeks he spent in Switzerland before being committed to an asylum.
But Ukrainian's are no slouches either when it comes to baring the soul. Volodymyr Kuznetsov, a contemporary Ukrainian artist, seeks to take his handwritten record of quotidian routine a step further in an intriguing exhibit at the Black Square Gallery in Wynwood.
His solo, "Personal Diary," includes nine entries from the collection of journals, calendars and notebooks he keeps. These are subsequently silk screened on synthetic fabric and hand-embroidered with his daily impressions, plans, sketches, and other sundry personal details.
Kuznetsov applies his embroidery expertise to transmit information along the same lines as the ancient civilizations that created ornamental patterns on fabric to encode their systems of knowledge, ideology, and spiritual beliefs for future generations to discover.
But where the ancients hewed to esoteric symbols to deliver their messages, the Ukrainian strives to openly communicate his opinions and mundane ruminations to the public almost as if engaging in social networking or sharing his intimate affairs on a live journal through his diary-based art.
For example, we know that he went shopping for meat bones, eggs, cucumbers, onions, garlic, and potatoes on a Wednesday in January to cook himself up a pot of borscht. His ingredients for the traditional Ukrainian stew bring to mind those diet journals people often keep for tracking calories or monitoring nutritional intake.
Another of his nifty stitched pieces suggests that he is acquainted with someone named Inga in Berlin in an entry that includes the long distance exchange for ;the woman's home phone. Oddly above this information, Kuznetsov has sewn a menacing drawing of what appears to be the outline of a Volvo that has been strafed with rocket fire and riddled with bullet holes.
Without further cues from the artist, one is left wondering if Inga was kidnapped by a terrorist or the victim of a violent crime. Or if she is a friend, his German art dealer, or even a high school flame who's demise he read about in the press. We'll never know. He may be a talented artist, but he is a shitty storyteller.
In one of these works, each the size of bath towels and hung from the wall like banners with binder clips and push pins, Kuznetsov muses about toasting the God of creativity with a jug of vodka as a meteor soars overhead. It's the rare piece boasting an outpour of words.
He also hints he has a lustful appetite for Tanya whom he rendered roughly in her birthday suit, legs splayed open, on June 25th during what might have been a bout of phone hanky-panky between the two. Again, one can only assume.
Unfortunately, for a show titled "Personal Diary" Kuznetsov never provides enough information for us to take a full measure of the man, learn what drives him out of bed, relish his passions or burrow deeper into his head.
Before stepping into the gallery, artists, not unlike authors hoping to be published, must edit their work. At Black Square, Kuznetsov gives the impression that he prefers leaning on the old saw that a picture is worth a thousand words or that he may have nothing much to say.
Why else the economy of language in these entries he plucked from his diaries for this show?
The Ukrainian's exhibit seems more buttressed by the curious medium he is employing rather than his premise of offering an absorbing memoir instead.
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Sure his stuff is eye-catching and interesting in the use of textural materials. It's even open for the possibilities of deeper narratives. But while Kuznetsov may win converts with the command of his craft, what he delivers here fails to persuade that the artist is a sensitive chronicler of his world and smacks more of conceptual shorthand.
"Personal Diary" Through October 5. Black Square Gallery, 2248 NW First Place, Miami. Call 305-424-5002 or visit blacksquaregallery.com.