The show includes more than 60 works, photographs, videos, and other materials that cover his entire career. The top floor is largely a retrospective of his work beginning with the abstract and geometrical monumental sculptures that began his career in the 1970s, including “Konstrukta,” and following their evolution to more organic forms, with his favorite themes appearing more frequently in various guises: hands, signature, human torso, hearts, and ovals.
The second part of the exhibition is about looking ahead: sculptures that breathe, pulse, move, take in a pour out water, light up, blink, grow, change in shape and color in response to heat or shadow, people, and weather conditions.
Most of them have not been made yet, often because the cost was prohibitive, or technology had not yet caught up with Kosmatschof’s vision. “Urban Heart,” for example, was meant to stand in the center of Moscow City and respond to the sun through solar panels that would let it pulse during the day and light up at night. It was abandoned after the economic crisis.
Many of these are shown in videos, first as images in a sketchbook — where you see Kosmatschof’s massive hands flipping the pages — and then envisioned in computer graphics as they would “behave” in city squares.
The exhibition ends with the “Unfolding Square” (2017-18) — a large square made of massive sheets of mirror joined at one point. When that point is “pressed” — here powered by an engine; on the street powered by solar energy — the sheets break up and collapse upon themselves, fracturing reality and reflecting it outward, transforming the world around it and then eventually returning it to the way it was as the sheets realign.
It is fitting that this piece is exhibited here. A few floors above it is the most famous square in art history: Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square.” That square was, in the words of the curators, a “rejection of interaction” while Kosmatschof’s square, to the contrary, opens a dialog with the world, interacting with it, drawing the surrounding reality into the world of the sculpture and transforming it.
Kosmatschof’s living and breathing sculptures may have come out of the Russian avant-garde, but they have gone on to create their own revolution in art. His works “change the world’s perception of the very nature of sculpture,” curator Kirill Svetyakov said. “They change the notion of what sculpture is and can be.”
Until Aug. 9 at the New Tretyakov Gallery. 10 Krymsky Val. Metro Oktyabrskaya. tretyakovgallery.ru/en