Concentrations 57: Slavs and Tatars

Dallas Museum of Art First to Present the Complete Love Letters Carpet Series 

Dallas, TX—July 17, 2014— The art collective known as Slavs and Tatars will for the first time present the complete series of Love Letters carpets—10 in all—together with a new audio piece produced specifically for their exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art. Concentrations 57: Slavs and Tatars, opening July 18 (Late Night Friday) and on view through December 14, 2014, will also include three additional works of sculpture from their current thematic series, Long Legged Linguistics. This installation is the latest in the Museum’s Concentrations series of project-based solo exhibitions by international emerging and under-represented artists. Concentrations began in 1981 as part of the DMA’s commitment to showing the work of living artists, while preserving the excitement of the work.

Slavs and Tatars, founded in 2006, is an art collective whose installations, lecture-performances, sculptures and publications contemplate otherwise little-known affinities, syncretic ideas, belief systems and rituals among peoples of the Caucasus, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Pursuing an unconventional research-based approach, the group identifies the “area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia” as the focus of their multidisciplinary practice. In their most recent cycle of work, titled Long Legged Linguistics, the group has investigated language as a source of political, metaphysical and even sexual emancipation. With their trademark mix of high and low culture, ribald humor and esoteric discourse, the collective addresses the complex issue of alphabet politics—the attempts by nations, cultures and ideologies to ascribe a specific set of letters to a given language.

“The Dallas Museum of Art is very pleased to be one of the first U.S. museums to present the work of Slavs and Tatars, an international art collective shown in museums and biennials around the world, as part of our long-standing Concentrations series,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “For more than 30 years, the Museum’s Concentrations series has showcased large-scale installations of over 50 emerging artists, making the work of contemporary artists more accessible while also continuing the DMA’s distinguished history of presenting the art of the present.”

For Concentrations 57, Slavs and Tatars present Love Letters, a series of 10 carpets based on the drawings of Russian poet, playwright and artist Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893–1930). Mayakovsky initially worked on behalf of the Bolshevik Revolution, lending his talents to give voice to the Russian people at a time of great social upheaval and reconstruction. But as the revolution changed its course, Mayakovsky—known as the “people’s poet”—became extremely disillusioned and could not forgive himself for being complicit in Joseph Stalin’s ruthless rise to power; he ultimately committed suicide at age 37.

Through caricature, the carpets depict the wrenching experience of having a foreign alphabet imposed on one’s native tongue and the linguistic acrobatics required to negotiate such change. In particular, the carpets tell two parallel stories: that of Vladimir Lenin’s forced Romanization of the Arabic-script languages spoken by the Muslim and Turkic-speaking people of the Russian Empire, and the 1928 language revolution of Mustafa Kamal Atatürk—Turkey’s first president—in which the Turkish language was converted from Arabic to Latin script. Accompanying the carpets is an audio piece of 15 odes to letters which are no longer in use, Love Letters to Vladimir (2014), produced specifically for the DMA installation, as well as three sculptures from the artist’s Long Legged Linguistics thematic series.

“Through humor and a disarming mix of high and low culture, Slavs and Tatars have the unique ability to make topics that seem foreign or historically distant feel not only approachable but incredibly timely and pertinent to our daily lives,” added Gabriel Ritter, The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art. “For the current presentation at the DMA, the artists have taken up the complex issue of alphabet politics, exploring how, in their words, the ‘march of alphabets has often accompanied that of empires and religions.’”  

Concentrations 57: Slavs and Tatars is included in the Museum’s free general admission. The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color illustrated brochure with explanatory text by exhibition curator Gabriel Ritter, The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art. Slavs and Tatars will discuss and provide tours of their work featured in the exhibition on Friday, July 18, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. during the Museum’s free monthly Late Night. This will be followed by a lecture-performance by the artists on Saturday, July 19, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. at the SMU Meadows Museum’s Smith Auditorium. Additional programming will be scheduled throughout the run of the exhibition. For dates, prices and details, visit DMA.org.

Concentrations 57: Slavs and Tatars is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art. Additional support provided by the Contemporary Art Initiative and TWO X TWO for AIDS and Art. Air transportation provided by American Airlines.

Images (left to right): Slavs and Tatars, Love Letters (No 1), 2013, wool and yarn, 247 x 247 cm. Photo credit: Orestis Argiropoulos. Courtesy Three Star Books, Paris; Slavs and Tatars, Love Letters (No 2), 2013, wool and yarn, 247 x 247 cm. Courtesy Kraupa-Tuskany Zeider, Berlin and Raster, Warsaw; Slavs and Tatars, Love Letters (No 9), 2014, wool and yarn, 247 x 247 cm. Courtesy Kraupa-Tuskany Zeider, Berlin and Raster, Warsaw

About Slavs and Tatars
Slavs and Tatars is an art collective devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia. The collective’s work spans several media, disciplines, and a broad spectrum of cultural registers (high and low) focusing on an oft-forgotten sphere of influence between Slavs, Caucasians and Central Asians. They have exhibited in major institutions across the Middle East, Europe and North America, including the Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, 10th Sharjah, 8th Berlin, 3rd Thessaloniki, and 9th Gwangju Biennials. Select solo engagements include MoMA, NY (2012), Secession, Vienna (2012), Künstlerhaus Stuttgart (2013), Kunsthalle Zurich (2014) and GfZK, Leipzig (2014). Slavs and Tatars has published six books, including Kidnapping Mountains (Book Works, 2009), Love Me, Love Me Not: Changed Names (onestar press, 2010), Not Moscow Not Mecca (Revolver/Secession, 2012), Khhhhhhh (Mousse/Moravia Gallery, 2012), Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz (Book Works, 2013) as well as their translation of the legendary Azeri satire Molla Nasreddin: the magazine that would’ve, could’ve, should’ve (JRP-Ringier, 2011).

About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country and is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation, and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 22,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum welcomes some 600,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. In January 2013, the DMA returned to a free general admission policy and launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program in the country, which currently has over 70,000 members. For more information, visit DMA.org.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Partners and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.