The Alternative States at Project Gallery V

In Dialogue with Arina Novak

Arina Novak is holding a laptop with the main page of The Alternative States displayed on the screen. Photo courtesy: Robert Oliver

The Alternative States is a virtual exhibition at Project Gallery V on view from May 3 through June 30, 2021. Inspired by a condition of daydreaming, the show explores the alternative states of mind where one finds solace in creative freedom and ethereal fantasies.

You are an emerging independent curator, serving as a guest curator of an extensive online exhibition at Project Gallery V. What is the genesis of this show and what can you tell me about the venue?

To me, curating The Alternative States has been an extraordinary opportunity during such challenging and uncertain times. Throughout the global pandemic, online venues became increasingly popular, rising in demand due to the unfortunate trend of physical galleries shutting their doors on new shows while trying to catch up with the unfulfilled exhibition programming from the last year. Because of such unique circumstances, many artists and curators turned to the online world seeking creative refuge. This was why I decided to take on the offer to guest-curate an online group exhibition at Project Gallery V. After meeting Cary Hulbert and Trinity Lester, the co-founders, and co-directors of Project Gallery V, I immediately felt welcome and excited to work with them on The Alternative States. I was especially drawn to the gallery’s mission to unite the art community in the wake of the global health crisis by providing artists with a safe and convenient space to exhibit their works alongside emerging, mid-career, and established creators. As an emerging independent curator, I was particularly attracted to collaborate with the Project because I have always wanted to foster an engaging discussion by introducing new names to the art world and evolve my practice alongside the next generation creatives.

What is the premise of Alternative States?

The exhibition theme is inspired by the condition of daydreaming when one drifts into the mind space of distraction and fantasy. Over the course of a year in isolation, I noticed my productivity fluctuating, often finding myself lost in thought during my extended stays at home. This is why I decided to dedicate the show to this ethereal condition of being detached from the physical reality traversing the deep corners of our minds seeking a muse in the stream of subconsciousness. I draw this connection from Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, where he argues that the unconscious influences people’s behavior even if they might not be aware of the changes.

What was your curatorial process for a virtual platform?

Curating an online exhibition is quite different from what one expects. In my experience, I encountered minor difficulties. Since I was able to see only a couple of works in person before selecting them to be featured in the online show, I was a little nervous. However, after doing a series of virtual studio visits with the artists, I felt confident about the selection. Because virtual exhibitions are hard to make as engaging as the in-person ones, I carefully thought about my choices of color and format of the works to match the desired layout. I must say that the installation process was definitely more pleasant and easier than in case of the IRL show since I did not have to figure out the logistics of art handling and shipping.

Yuri Yuan, Traffic Jam in New Jersey, 2018. 24″ x 30″. Oil on canvas. Photo courtesy: Yuri Yuan

Why these works by these artists?

The show includes fifteen artists. Some of them may be viewed as emerging artists, while others are mid-career. The narratives in their artworks vary greatly but still connect to the overall theme of the show by staying in dialogue with the topic of daydreaming. Painting from her memories, Yuri Yuan addresses themes of isolation and loss by creating minimal secluded spaces through the use of intimate light and a reserved color palette. Her compositions stay in dialogue with Brittany Miller’s Sanctuary. Miller’s work depicts a vulnerable male figure placed in the intimate context of a vaguely familiar domestic setting, daydreaming in a space of refuge, his bed. Erica Mao’s Fire Walk with Me portrays an alternative reality through the intensely vibrant yet sinister-looking color scheme, introducing the viewers to the imaginary dimensions filled with the ever-present sense of fear and danger.

Alisa Gvozdeva and Kirill Burygin rely on unpredictability in the painterly narratives, submitting to subconsciousness and fantasy when completing their works. Lucía Rodríguez, Alexey Yakovlev, and Eric Kogan introduce distorted realities through mediums like painting and photography, instilling fiction in everyday life through color, light, and complex compositions. Sofia Yalalova’s I Have a Dream features a half-faced portrait of a child against a hollow background space symbolizing a room for physical and mental growth, while Marsel Yalalov’s Porn features the background mimics the RGB color palette alluding to his fascination with virtual reality.

The works of Amy Bravo incorporate unique cultural narratives filled with enigma, queerness, and symbiotic energy, addressing deeply personal iconography and creating a place for an internal dialogue. In particular, her Fugere Non Possum is a specific reference to a piece of music used in Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire (2019) a historical French drama film, in reference to lesbian invisibility. In his quilt-like collage, Luis A. Gutierrez uses documentary photographs as a part of the tapestry arrangement. While he succeeds in incorporating his extensive research of understudied historic events in Latin America, he ultimately stresses the importance of these elements to remain in hidden focus, emphasizing our collective amnesia by focusing on the aesthetics qualities

Cecily Brown’s prints advance her extraordinary nonlinear vision in What the Shepherd Saw and Untitled I by intertwining the bodies of various animals in one complex surreal fauna. While painting dreamlike landscapes, Daria Denisova and Alina Vinogradova emphasize the nude female body as the central subject matter in their works, alluding to the importance of womanhood and its presence in the past, present, and future. Daria takes inspiration from Eastern Orthodox iconography and Renaissance art. Her creative direction is powered by feminism with the focus on painting portraits of women in scars. Alina’s art is closely associated with the study of ancient rituals and religious practices. In her work, she romanticizes the procedures of foregone rituals by connecting herself with the past through meditation and yoga.

Brittany Miller, Sanctuary, 2021, 36″ x 36″. Oil on canvas. Photo courtesy: Brittany Miller

You say that your goal is to establish the presence of Eastern European artists abroad through special curatorial projects as a creative nexus between the two different parts of the world. What would you like to share about this plan?

While the exhibition includes many artists of international backgrounds who are based in the United States, out of fifteen artists, there are seven Russian painters. This OVR exhibition is particularly valuable to them since this is their first exposure to the opportunity abroad. As a Russian-born curator, my goal is to help the next generation of Russian artists to take part in the global conversation. In Eastern Europe, there are many talented individuals that form a vibrant art scene but they are yet to become a part of the international discourse. What I tend to notice is that in the eyes of the western countries Eastern Europe is often regarded as a major antagonist due to its association with authoritarian political regimes. I want to introduce the country’s creatives, accessing the Russian art scene by working with international galleries and collectors. Eventually, I want to establish my own independent project space with the goal to create a community and provide Eastern European artists with opportunities to exhibit their works abroad. I am a strong believer that there is always a place for a dialogue between Russia and the United States in the context of contemporary art exchanges.

Kirill Burygin, Lobster, 2021. 51″ x 43″. Acrylics, pastel on plywood, pinewood frame. Photo courtesy: Kirill Burigyn

The Alternative States Through June 30th, 2021 Curated by Arina Novak Featuring works by:Amy Bravo, Cecily Brown (courtesy of The LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies), Kirill Burygin, Daria Denisova, Alisa Gvozdeva, Luis Gutierrez, Eric Kogan, Erica Mao, Brittany Miller, Lucía Rodríguez, Alina Vinogradova, Alexey Yakovlev, Sofia Yalalova, Marsel Yalalov, and Yuri Yuan.

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: