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Boris Mikhailov: A Responsibility Towards the Ukraine

MoMA presents the first American Museum presentation dedicated entirely to Boris Mikhailov’s photographic series Case History.

Untitled, from the series Case History. 1997–98. © 2011 Boris Mikhailov via moma.org

Ukrainian-born Boris Mikhailov is one of the leading photographers from the former Soviet Union. For over 40 years, he has explored the human individual, incorporating personal narratives of humor, lust, vulnerability, aging and death whilst also touching on such subjects as Ukraine under Soviet rule, the living conditions in post-communist Eastern Europe, and the fallen ideals of the Soviet Union.

The MoMA exhibition features 19 works selected from the larger body of work of Case History. Developed between 1997 and 1998, Case History is composed of 400 photographs and was published as a book in 1999. Possibly Mikhailov’s most challenging body of work, it explores the troubling circumstances of the homeless class that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Untitled, from the series Case History. 1997–98. via The New York Times

In 1996, after spending time abroad, Mikhailov returned to Kharkov to focus on the circumstances of the invisible underclass. Set against a bleak, industrial backdrop, his life-size color photographs chronicle the oppression and devastation of poverty.

For Mikhailov, photography was a responsibility: his Case History series records post-Soviet realities; a reaction to the previous histories of the Ukraine that went undocumented. Case History also explores the complicated relationship between photographer and subject. The photographs themselves are collaborations, sometimes the result of a spontaneous moment, other times directed by the artist.

Untitled, from the series Case History. 1997–98. via moma.org

Mikhailov lives and works in Berlin and Kharkov. His work has been widely exhibited, such as at the Saatchi Gallery, Tate Modern, London’s Photographer’s Gallery, and the São Paolo and Venice biennials. He is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including the Hasselblad Foundation Award. Mikhailov was also included in MoMA’s New Photography series in 1993, with his collection of photographs titled U Zemli (On the Ground).

Untitled, from the series Case History. 1997–98. via moma.org

Boris Mikhailov: Case History is open until September 5th, 2011 at The Robert and Joyce Menschel Gallery, Third Floor, MoMa, New York.

written by webo29

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