Dagestan artist debuts in New York

1 May 2014
Text Nadia Beard

An exhibition by Dagestan-born artist and sculptor Aladdin Garunov opens today in New York’s Shchukin Gallery — the artist’s debut solo show in the US. Featuring a combination of Arabic calligraphy, fur and industrial materials, Aladdin Garunov: Selected Works, 1998-2013 sees the artist eschew the post-modernist approach adopted by many post-Soviet artists. Turning his attention to the contradictions between eastern and western philosophy, Garunov strives to make art which fuses aestheticism with deeper questions of identity and religion.

Talking to The Calvert Journal, Garunov expressed the importance of protecting Dagestan’s artistic traditions, saying: “I am opposed to the loss of national traditions and national identity. I want art from Dagestan to be part of the global art scene.” His work is strongly influenced by his upbringing in the southern republic. Located between the Caucasus mountains and the Caspian Sea, this ethnically diverse region has become known in recent years as a hotbed of terrorism and religious and ethnic tension. Garunov refuses to divorce his art, and its exploration of philosophy and mysticism, from life. “There is art for art’s sake, which engages in external aesthetics and beauty, but if art is only aesthetic, we won’t convey anything about the time we live in to our audience,” he said. “As an artist, you have to understand what’s happening in the world and either reflect the here and now or the mystical processes going on outside of time.”

Garunov’s art blends major Russian artistic traditions, including Suprematism and Constructivism, with unmistakably Islamic images and materials. He strives to use his art to ease tensions between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, whose relationship he sees as in crisis. Noting art’s ability to foster understanding and reconciliation, he added: “In the world there are always certain contradictions, between development and patriarchy and east and west, and with my art I want to show that these things can interact and conflict simultaneously.”

The exhibition runs until 30 June.