Russian art and philosophy are certainly a strong influence for the former University of Minnesota sculpture professor, who divides her time between New York and the former Russian capital of St. Petersburg, has exhibited works at the Moscow Biennale in 2013 and grew up watching the films of Andrei Tarkovsky (“Solaris”).
“When I was young, the only place in the world I dreamed of going to was Moscow,” Stanislav said. “Was it [because of] a movie? Masterpieces? I grew up around a lot of coffee table art books and my mom pushed me to go to art museums at a young age.”
Although she often gets a pass from Russian curators because of her last name, Stanislav is actually an “Eastern European dog,” as she calls him. Born in Chicago, she grew up in a musical family with a Czech father and a mother of mixed Eastern European origins.
The sculpture, photomontages, collages and video work in the exhibition, which runs until February 27, are inspired by Russian cosmism, a school of thought that emerged before the Revolution of 1917, imagining a world guided by technological advances and interplanetary travel.
The immersive exhibition centers around questions of space exploration, human construction, imaginary futures of a happy utopia or a dystopian downfall. Polarities are also a theme – a way to investigate the failures of empires and the dark truths that lie beneath seemingly beautiful objects.
“Vanishing Points” (2008), a giant rhinestone headless horse sculpture that spins on a circular mirror pedestal, is both seductive and repulsive. The sequins and spikes draw the viewer in, only for them to realize that they have been decapitated, a mirror placed on the edge where their head was.
While monumental works dominate the show, a series of collages and resin-encrusted glitter and enamel paintings create a space for reflection.
“Solaris V” is a circular, shimmering orb, like a shining star in a distant galaxy, painted on a black background. In “Shifter VI”, an astronaut, an upside-down white horse, and a tiled surface, among other objects, rush through a burst of holographic film.
In “Pink Cube” (2014), a fallen white stuffed dove rests on a pink mirror cube, seeing history, witnessing what man has done. The book also refers a famous photo of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, holding a dove as a symbol of peace.
“Animals in my work are sometimes stand-ins and symbols for something more mythological,” Stanislav said, “but animals are also sort of dead and resurrected in a sculptural way.”
In “Troika” (2021), three headless wolves – with slices of pink mirror in place of their heads – dance in a circle around a suspended disco ball that signifies Russia Sputnik, the first satellite launched into space. On the ball there is a phrase in Russian: “The fairy tale has come true” – a mantra in Gagarin’s time.
“The Sputnik-scaled orb responds to this utopian idea of space travel, referencing literal slogans in Soviet times,” Stanislav said.
“Walk through the exhibit and you start with this statement that says ‘the fairy tale has come true’ and it ends in the video gallery with everyone resurrected on Mars, the dancers and the horse.”
Stanislav was referring to a three-channel video, “Surmatants – Mars Rising,” which she made during the pandemic.
When viewers watch the 10-minute play, they become the center of a Slavic folk dance circle. At the end of the video, the dancers fall and reappear on Mars. The white horse seen throughout the exhibit also figures prominently, with a masked woman eventually riding on it.
“I positioned death on the horse, taking an image of the 15th century plague from the danse macabre…and turning it into this woman,” Stanislav said. “She goes off and ends up on Mars, like a sci-fi plague video.”
Andrea Stanislav: Cosmist reconstructions – Memories of the Earth
Where: Museum of Russian Art, 5500 Stevens Av. S., Deputies.
When: 10am-5pm Mon-Fri, 10-4 Sat, 1-5 Sun. Ends Feb 27.
Admission: $5 to $14, free for ages 13 and under.
Information: tmora.org or 612-821-9045.