See This Russian Artist’s Dark Vision of How Pollution Is Destroying Our Planet, Now on View in Venice

The exhibition of work by Vasily Klyukin is presented by the State Russian Museum.

Installation view of "Vasily Klyukin: In Dante Veritas," presented by the State Russian Museum. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The end times are fast approaching in Venice, where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have ridden into town for “In Dante Veritas,” a solo exhibition by Russian artist Vasily Klyukin. The menacing metal sculptures are titled Overpopulation, MisinformationPollution, and ExtermiTation, and represent what Klyukin sees as the biggest threats to our planet and the human race. The project is one of many works in Venice to deal with climate change and impending environmental disaster.

“One day we will find the cure for cancer, for AIDS, but corruption will be always,” Klyukin told artnet News at a preview of the show. “But if we don’t stop pollution, we’ll have no illness, no corruption, because there won’t be any people on the earth.”

He was inspired by Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem ​Divine Comedy, only here Dante’s Inferno is due to an environmental collapse. Klyukin has reimagined the Italian author’s nine circles of hell in a series of sculptures, including light boxes and interlocking metal works, 2-D slices of metal that, when displayed on a single axis, create a 3-D figure.

This is the artist’s signature “live sculpture” technique, which grew out of works Klyukin made by carving into the pages of a book, creating a sculpture that fanned out. Now, he creates computer files using Sketchfab and sends them to a fabricator to have the shapes laser cut. The metal sheets slide into place along the work’s axis, allowing the piece to be assembled without bolts, fasteners, or glue.

The overall effect of the exhibition is something more akin to a haunted house than a world-class art museum, with smoke machines pumping fog through the air and bleak trash bags decorating the walls—but it’s an undoubtedly canny means of construction, which Klyukin uses to create his ominous horsemen as well as various figures being tortured according to their sins.

Organized by the State Russian Museum and the Municipality of Venice, the show is an official collateral event for the Venice Biennale, taking place in the Arsenale Nord, directly across a canal from the biennale’s main exhibition and national pavilions in the Arsenale. (A free water shuttle allows visitors to make the crossing with ease, rather than a circuitous journey by foot.)

See more photos of the exhibition below.

Installation view of "Vasily Klyukin: In Dante Veritas," presented by the State Russian Museum. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of “Vasily Klyukin: In Dante Veritas,” presented by the State Russian Museum. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of "Vasily Klyukin: In Dante Veritas," presented by the State Russian Museum. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of “Vasily Klyukin: In Dante Veritas,” presented by the State Russian Museum. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of "Vasily Klyukin: In Dante Veritas," presented by the State Russian Museum. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of “Vasily Klyukin: In Dante Veritas,” presented by the State Russian Museum. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Vasily Klyukin: In Dante Veritas,” presented by the State Russian Museum, is on view at Arsenale Nord, Tesa 94, Venice, May 8–November 26, 2019. 


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