“Alexander Labas. October” is a retrospective of a 20th-century artist Alexander Labas. Held in the Institute of Russian Realist Art in Moscow, the exhibition presents his series “October” dedicated to the events of October Revolution. This is the most important series in artist’s oeuvre.
Born in 1900, Labas had been working on it for his whole life, since the late 1920s to his death in 1983 using his memories of Revolution as an archive. Together those artworks form a massive storyboard that could be compared with a non-fiction book Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed. Drawings and paintings are accompanied by the documentary photographs of revolutionary events from the collection of Multimedia Art Museum Moscow.
Despite its range, it is a very delicate art that requires being shown in private and enclosed spaces. Project Eleven architects Igor Chirkin and Pavel Prishin have divided a 700 square meter hall into six thematic sections. Each room is dedicated to the particular part of the “October” series.
The entrance section is devoted to archive files and biography of Alexander Labas. The only artwork here is a self-portrait of the artist – Labas had depicted himself with his painting October that can be seen in the central section along with the most important paintings of the series.
Unlike the other rooms painted in light grey, the central chamber’s color scheme is very bold. Half-white, half-red, it symbolizes Labas’s complicated attitude towards the Revolution that had been changing throughout his life.
The rest of exhibition’s sections (images of Civil War, drawings of Moscow Bolshevik Uprising and various portraits of troops and sailors) including a small (83 m2) cinema hall are located around the central space.
A dark passageway that connects the rooms is adorned with quotations from the artist’s diaries and memoirs. These sharp and somewhat abrupt phrases navigate the viewer through the exhibition’s elaborate space and create a dialogue between its sections.
Though the chambers are isolated by solid MDF walls, their corners of thin penetrable bars of pillars break the strict and dramatic layout.
Text description by Alena Kovalenko.