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Andrei Molodkin
at Station Museum of Contemporary Art
Recommendation by Charissa N. Terranova

Oil is both subject and object in Andrei Molodkin's installation of abstract kineticism that electrifies the museum space.

Continuing through February 12, 2012

If there ever were a time to be outraged by the course of American Empire, it is now. Leadership has been trumped by greed in the form of bubbly black gold, or crude oil, according to the artwork of Russian-born Paris-based artist Andrei Molodkin. It would seem juvenile and monological for anyone to reduce all of our political and economic woes to a single source, in this instance oil. In contradistinction, and very far from narrow-minded, Molodkin is persuasive and incisively perceptive. In short, he is exactly right with his art.

In the spirit of 1917 and the Constructivists of that moment, there is an abstract kineticism of machinery that electrifies the air here. The whir-thump-and-wheeze of small pumps on the floor propel oil through hollow resin signage located on the floor, walls, and podia. Snake-like hoses connect signage to pumps, winding and twisting across the open floor of the gallery, weaving art work to art work. It all adds up to a damning, unholy yet supra-powerful unity. Like tentacles, the hoses capture the resin forms, crude-oil pumped words “Justice” and “Democracy” are absorbed into a greater mythic totality reminiscent of the serpent-strangled “Laocoön,” the familiar Roman sculpture of a Trojan priest and his sons being dragged under by a sea monster.  

Like doing philosophy with a hammer, Molodkin delivers his politics with a mixture of a darkly humorous sense of the cerebral and the forthright obviousness of social realism. Linking American politics to corruption and crime writ large, a portrait of President Obama rendered in green ink in the style of Shepard Fairey hangs on the wall at the far end of the gallery. Next to it sits a three-dimensional acrylic sign with crude oil chugging through it. The bottom of the Obama sign reads “Yes We Can,” while Molodkin’s podium-mounted sculpture reads “Fuck You.” There are no bones about this message.

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