Russian photographer Boris Mihailov explores vulgarity and tradition in both the form and the content of his images.
The way an artist presents their work often tells us how we should look at the work, or what we should look for. By making coarse prints and adding text that looks like the scrawl of an anarchist on a barroom napkin, Mihailov asks us to locate the vulgarity in the image - just like Ansel Adams asks us to locate the beauty of nature in his pristine and elegantly crafted prints. In the suite of images reproduced here Mihailov appears to critique and embrace the vulgarity found in both Soviet and American culture. In one arrangement he proclaims that the celebrated nudes of American photographer Paul Outerbridge can't give him an erection and in another he references a Soviet children's rhyme that claims Americans to be full of shit. But the look of the images are almost too playful and their form too casual, so we look again to locate other sources of vulgarity.
When we look again we find that it is Outerbridge's depictions of women that Mihailov finds vulgar and that he perceives Soviet stereotypes of Americans as vulgar as the garish colors he has painted on the photograph.
By using jarring and expressive arrangements of pictures and text Mihailov questions and challenges the conventions of photography. In the process of taking risks he has found an order that allows the reckless and gritty look of his prints to compliment the ideas and text they reference.
Boris Mihailov lives in Kharkov, Ukraine and participated in our Artist-in-Residence program in July 1993. During his residency Mihailov worked in collaboration with Diane Neumaier.
Jeffrey Hoone (c)1993