I remember exactly where I was when I first saw Pasmur Rachuiko’s art few years ago. Someone posted this image on a gay Russian forum among the (un)solicited nudes and amateur porn: a guy in an Adidas track suit, his shoulders framed by flaming red wings and an assault rifle, a lion in a church dome crown resting at his feet. The painting was surreal, yet immediately familiar, disorienting like an erotic nightmare. Rostov, said the hat. This could not have been a more viscerally accurate portrait of that southern Russian city (where I too was born). A historic gateway to the volatile region of the Caucuses, Rostov had always prized what we’d now call “toxic masculinity” with its addictive mix of gun-powder patriotism, criminality fused with religiosity, and (hetero)sexuality as a weapon of class warfare. The notoriety of this land is mythologized in the histories of the ancient Scyths, the old Cossacks, modern Gopniks. Pasmur Rachuiko taps into the zeitgeist meta-vein that flows through the Russian geopolitical outskirts and the fringe of the Russian psyche. I was involuntarily aroused and inexplicably outraged. It was instant fandom.
I got to see his exhibition “I Like You” at the Gogol Center in Moscow in November. Run by another Rostov-born cultural daredevil Kirill Serebrennikov, it is “the city inside a theater, the theater inside a city, the territory of freedom”. The works seemed out-of-place in the busy lobby, but then again… where would YOU hang these?! The paintings ooze existential bewilderment. What’s Islamophobic about homo-eroticism? Is domestic violence an Orthodox Christian rite? Could I be buried in an Adidas-branded casket? Wait, what?!! Rachuiko delivers stupefaction. “With his arrogant claim to high art, his incredible impudence in equating the ‘base’ with the ‘eternal’, this phony artist can’t fail to contaminate us with his intensity.” And that is a curatorial note! On social media, he often shares best-of comments from viewers who “just can’t” with his triggering art.
Here are some texture(s) and my homage to Serebrennikov outside Gogol Center.
You can learn about Pasmur’s “gastronomic downshifting” and his projects online.