Pushkin Gallery, located on Canyon Road, opened in 2000 as the first Russian art gallery in Santa Fe. Its founder, Kenneth Pushkin, and its curator of Russian painting, Rosa Lena Reed Robinson, recently began engaging the students at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design (SFUAD) in a vibrant and innovative collaboration. Pushkin Gallery has since established the Pushkin Gallery Prize, an annual scholarship rewarded to a new media student—this summer, the gallerists have offered the building’s façade for a series of summer-long video mapping projections called Outdoor Vision Fest (OVF). The University also hosts its own Outdoor Vision Fest, started in 2011, from which Pushkin drew its inspiration. I sat down with Reed Robinson to discuss the scholarship, opportunities for young new media artists, and the similarities between Modern Russian art and contemporary digital initiatives.
Hannah Hoel: Can you explain the scholarship process? How is a student chosen and what do they receive?
Rosa Lena Reed Robinson: This year marks the second annual awarding of the Pushkin Gallery Prize at SFUAD. The prize this year will be a commissioned exhibition visible to over 300,000 collectors, featured at two pre-eminent art fairs: Art Silicon Valley/Art San Francisco and Art Miami. The selection process reflects an enhanced investment in the digital new media program at the SFUAD Film School. Two professors at the university are particularly noteworthy: Terry Borst and Brad Wolfley. They select the students for exhibition, for scholarship receipt, and are incomparable ambassadors for this particular artistic focus.
HH: When did the scholarship begin?
RR: The Pushkin Gallery Prize took center stage in 2013 at Russian Art Week in London. The program of events during the auction season focused on our contemporary collection, specifically the artist Boris Chetkov (1926-2010). The spellbinding momentum and investment in color that fuels Chetkov’s work inspired me to reach out to the University Film School. Groundbreaking digital video installations are particularly influential in keeping with the immediate Russian avant-garde. The initial recipients of the scholarship, Ryan Riggs and Chelsey Danielsen, worked directly from the artist’s paintings. The resulting work was a digital media animation of these pieces. The video itself was showcased at the opening of Russian Art Week, held at the Westbury Hotel Gallery, Mayfair London, in tandem with the publication release of Re-Imagining Russia, the newest Chetkov publication.
HH: Those are such great opportunities. Is that the main goal of the scholarship?
RR: The opportunity to exhibit has truly become the intention of the Pushkin Gallery Prize. Our desire to showcase our Russian post-war paintings in a new light has absolutely blossomed into an ongoing dialogue between artists, deceased and living, established and aspiring, who choose alternative means of expression. The student commitment to growth, to change, to the alternative has revitalized our own appreciation of our collection.
HH: How did OVF at Pushkin begin?
RR: Due to the success of the initial Pushkin Galley Prize and the tremendous output seen at SFUAD’s OVF, OVF at Pushkin Gallery was conceived and implemented. Through OVF at Pushkin Gallery, the immediate relationship between student and patron is even more precious.
HH: How many students have displayed work?
RR: Beginning Labor Day weekend 2014, seven students have produced site-specific media installations on historic Canyon Road. The students—Aldo Vidrio, Arnold Mateos Itai, and VJ Buran (aka Chris Beran)—are of particular note, as they have attended and projected on multiple occasions. We have had DJs come to create sound installations simultaneously with the video projections and artists have done digital mapping of the Pushkin Gallery façade. The only requirement of the students is a commitment to standing for progression and experimentation.
HH: Were these students chosen from SFUAD’s OVF?
RR: All of the artists we feature are students currently enrolled in The Film School at SFUAD. All students have also previously participated in OVF at SFUAD.
HH: How do you see these initiatives evolving?
RR: I certainly foresee great things evolving out of the partnership between SFUAD and Pushkin Gallery. Because of the very nature of both Modern Russian avant-garde paintings and of digital media installations, there is really nothing that cannot be done. We are inherently invested in the experimental. The media dictates this opportunity; we must simply keep apace.
HH: There is little marketing of these events. Can you comment on their guerrilla nature?
RR: As our area of expertise is Modern Russian fine art, Pushkin Gallery has an engendered level of comfort with the underground. Many of our artists made work under conditions of great duress, keeping secret studios, working either at the height of controversy within the official Soviet system or working quietly, completely outside of the establishment. As such, our desire to continue to explore avant-garde principles within contemporary art is quite well founded. Under the dark of night, the most progressive contemporary media is happening on historic Canyon Road. I really enjoy the juxtaposition.
[All images: OVF at Pushkin Gallery, 2014, Digital Media; Courtesy Pushkin Gallery]