Henry Khudyakov at Volta NY
I Think, Therefore I Shop

Black & White Gallery / Project Space

March 4–8, 2020
March 4, 2020
Volta NY
Black & White Gallery / Project Space
Booth 2.19
New York, NY

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Black & White Gallery / Project Space is delighted to announce its participation in VOLTA NY 2020 with the solo feature titled I Think, Therefore I Shop by the Russian-American self-taught conceptual artist Henry Khudyakov (b. 1930, Cheliabinsk, Russia; d. 2019, Jersey City, NJ).

The presentation marks the artist's first solo art fair exhibition. It offers a glimpse into Henry’s mysterious world where the barriers between art and life have been broken down featuring the intricate and visionary “softwearables” from the artist’s personal line of fantasy fashions which he transformed into a series of unique and precious art objects encoded with cultural messages. Henry called himself a “non-conformist poet turned visual artist”. He never completely abandoned the written word though. Over the course of decades, he documented his every artistic move on the artworks’ back sides and worked and reworked some of the pieces over long periods of time, sometimes as much as thirty years. The results are glamorous in their dissonance and jarring in their syncopation.

Artists have long been intrigued by the aesthetic aspects of how we look at, savor and acquire the temptations and rewards our material world had to offer. As John Bowlt writes in his recent essay, “A major stimulus to Khudyakov’s colored vestments and fabrics was the nocturnal skyline of New York City which he saw, flabbergasted, from the top of the Empire State Building shortly after immigration (1974), which is to say that his luminous jackets, neck-ties, pants, and banners may be read as vertical transmissions of the horizontal Manhattan cityscape at night…” 

About the artist
The roots of Henry Khudyakov's art lie in literature. In the 60s and 70s, a large part of his activity revolved around a written word. In 1968 Henry's portfolio of poems was published in S.M.S (Shit Must Stop)—a bi-weekly publication conceived by William Copley and published in NYC. Each issue included portfolios created by significant international artists from a wide range of art movements working in diverse mediums. The project was inspired by the Fluxus movement which encouraged various artists to come together as a form of a protest against galleries having the authority to determine the value of art. 

Upon Henry's arrival to the USA in 1974, he translated Emily Dickinson and other English language poets into Russian. His own poems have been published in different Russian language publications in the West and his innovative recitals, with their fractured, phonetic vernacular, have been well documented. In the late 1970s his growing interest in the forces that influence our lives led him to break away from writing poetry and crossover to visual arts. 

From the outset of his career as a visual artist, Khudyakov's manipulation of cheap collectibles, rejection of familiar artistic practices, integration of process-based technique, and most importantly, the interconnection between text and image, suggest strong affinities with Fluxus artists. He, like Fluxus organizer George Maciunas and his colleagues George Brecht, Yoko Ono, and Robert Filliou, took up the task of re-embedding art within everyday life, picking up where Dada and Russian Constructivist artists left off.

Henry Khudyakov: I Think, Therefore I Shop is the first solo art fair presentation of this radical self-taught Russian-American artist who enjoyed recognition for some time during his life but exhibited relatively rarely. Khudyakov's work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, NYC and The Center Pompidou, Paris. His work was included in several museum exhibitions, most notably at The Moscow Museum of Modern Art (solo 2019 / catalogue raisonné), The Center Pompidou, Paris (group 2018), and Nassau County Museum of Art, Roselyn Harbor, NY (solo 1989).

Curator: Tatyana Okshteyn