The Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA) presents Existence-co-Existence, a solo project by the Zak Kaghado. In his works, the American artist of Circassian origin turns to the national original culture of the North Caucasus, rethinking its heritage in installations and canvases close in style to the American expressionism of the second half of the 20th century.
Born and living in the U.S., the artist continuously engaged in the archival study of Circassian history. Each of his works reflects not only the ethnic context, but also the personal story of the artist, his family values and his unbroken connection with his ancestors. Combining attention to the theme of national and family heritage with the practices of contemporary art allows the artist to connect his work with the Circassian neo-avant-garde.
To create large-scale canvases and installations, Zak Kaghado uses materials that bring his art closer to traditional decorative and applied techniques: the author mixes oil paint with soil brought from the North Caucasus, he leaves traces of soot and burns on the canvas produced by fire. Black three-dimensional backgrounds are complemented by embedded artifacts also of ethnic origin: elements of national Circassian costumes, a dagger, shichapshina (national musical instrument), fragments of embroidery. All the titles of Zak Kaghado’s works are in one way or another related to the family, denoting the belonging of the individual to the single tree of life. On the surface of many paintings, assemblages and installations there are peculiar symbols, tamgas, family signs of Circassian (Adyghe) clans, painted in white. Old railway sleepers taken from Nalchik are additional objects that keep the memory of the past of thousands of people, form the space inside the halls, frame the works and become the material of the installation. They embody the concept of the eternal path and simultaneously serve as a reminder of the historical traumas of the peoples of the Caucasus, including the dark episodes of deportations.
Zak’s project represents an exploration of his own identity, combining Circassian roots, the experience of growing up in an American environment and being part of the Muslim community, to become the basis for a conversation about global historical changes and the problems of contemporary society. The artist gives ethnic motifs a cloud of universal meanings and themes: the painful search for self, death and rebirth, collective memory, living through historical trauma and subsequent healing.
Work on the project has been underway since 2016. The exhibition has previously been shown at the National Museum of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic (2021), at the North Caucasus branch of the State Museum of Oriental People’s Art (2021), at the North Caucasus branch of the State Center for Contemporary Art (2022), and at Novy Museum in Saint-Petersburg (2022). Some of the works were created by the artist specifically for the new project at the MMOMA.
DATE: NOVEMBER 17, 2022 — FEBRUARY 5, 2023 VENUE: ММОМА, 25 PETROVKA STR.