The modern press, hooked on getting the “newest news,” also demands a constant supply of “fresh blood” (new young artists) from the art world. If it doesn’t find them, it molds them out of whatever is at hand. Understandably, magazine covers should be graced with young and beautiful faces! From this perspective, Ivan Tuzov seems to be a phenomenon. So he was a student of the PRO ARTE institute, and he drew funny comics that he published in the internet. Other than his close group of friends, no one had heard of him, until suddenly he had project upon project in major galleries, a series of publications in various journals, and endless “creative meetings” with fans. That’s how it happens sometimes – something just clicks, and all the long and tedious invisible work that the artist spent so many years on suddenly falls into place in the “puzzle”.
Actually, everything that Ivan does is directly devoted to the modern history of Russia. But this is not history rewritten and smoothed over by Kremlin political strategists, and it is not history recorded by conscientious academics sorting through tons of archives. This is history as seen by the eyes of our contemporary, a young Russian. For him, most of the historical realities of our fathers’ generation seem as ancient and far-fetched as the history of Ancient Rome. This is why Tuzov easily juxtaposes different characters, like Lenin and Marx, Hitler and the Grim Reaper, the Mario Brothers of the computer game and Tadjik construction workers in orange helmets, Mickey Mouses and Grandfather Mazay’s Rabbits, Japanese cartoon ninjas and iconic heroes of modern art, Uncle Stepa the police officer and the cops from The Street of Broken Lamps. Noticeably, this list is rather “international”, not stuck on characters from Russian history, but attracting many characters from “enemy” pop culture and making them our own. This only confirms the universality of the world picture, not focused on finding a prescribed “specialness”. These images would remain just an entertaining exercise, if not for the artist’s decision to make them monumental by using Soviet decorative monumental art techniques. Thus, the drawn pixel acquires flesh and mass in the inlaid ceramic tile that most of the works on display are made out of. This technique only appears simple; it actually requires careful parsing of the drawing to the visual frame. In actuality, when we examine the result, we understand that this parsing is not only visual, but structural – before our eyes, Tuzov parses the “national institution of heroics” into its basic molecular components, those same components that icons are molded from.
And in order to avoid doubting and indignation from the older generation, we will support this contention with an armor-piercing quote from the classics which has long since “gone to the people”: “Why this course of history? So that humanity should part with its past cheerfully.” (Karl Marx in his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1848).