Today Tate Modern unveiled a monumental steel sculpture by the artist Erik Bulatov, installed on the terrace outside the gallery to mark the centenary of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia.
The work consists of the word ‘forward’ spelled out four times in Cyrillic letters, each standing ten feet high and arranged in a wide circle. It will remain on display through the summer, and will be followed by two major Russian art exhibitions at Tate Modern in the autumn: Ilya and Emilia Kabakov from 18 October and Red Star Over Russia from 8 November.
Forward 2016 is Erik Bulatov’s first sculpture and was conceived following a visit to a decommissioned 19th century iron foundry in Maubourguet, France. Struck by the enormous, semi-derelict space and its lost sense of power and energy, Bulatov felt that the building was representative of contemporary society. Encapsulating the aspirations of his generation and the disillusionment that followed, the artist conceived the work as the word ‘forward’ in giant steel letters with red facades. They are arranged in a circle, repeated four times with one of the letters lying on its back as if toppled over. While their bold forms and bright colours create a feeling of energy and movement, their placement in a closed loop implies that progress may never really be possible.
Bulatov was born in Russia in 1933 and began his career in Moscow in the 1960s, where he became a leading underground artist, before moving to Paris in the early 1990s. He is best known for paintings that explore the politically charged language of the Soviet and post-Soviet era. Forward 2016 was executed and installed with support from a/political, an arts organisation dedicated to the support and promotion of artists working within a socio-political framework. It was first shown at The Foundry, the very space that inspired the work. It was curated by Natalia Sidlina, Adjunct Research Curator, Russian Art, Supported by the V-A-C Foundation, Tate Modern, and project managed by Magdalena Maculewicz. The work is installed on the south terrace, a public space created as part of the new Tate Modern, which will regularly showcase work by artists and bring the gallery’s programme out into the city.
This autumn Tate Modern will also mark the centenary of the 1917 Revolution with two major exhibitions of Russian artists.Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into The Future will be the UK’s first major museum exhibition of this pioneering couple. Open from 18 October 2017 to 28 January 2018 it will offer a unique chance to view works from across their career, including large-scale installations which draw on imagery from the former Soviet Union and the narrative traditions of Russian literature. From 8 November 2017 to 18 February 2018, Red Star Over Russia will explore Russian and Soviet visual culture and design in the decades following the revolution. It will showcase rarely seen posters, photographs and other graphic works from the collection of the late David King, which was recently acquired by Tate.
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