Jim Drain

Love Letter to Varvara Stepanova (in the form of sculpture; 99 years from now; not sent from here)

September 10 - October 22, 2017

Opening reception September 10, 4-7pm


Dearest Varvara Stepanova,

Supernova. I am a moon to your orbit.  Russia’s so cozy.  Missals and

Poems. Your “poison” drawings are still weapons against hunger.  They are

The machines to flex utopian muscles.   Muscles for the galaxy.  I’m

Shouting for Rodchenko. Here are sculptures for you.   They are love letters.

They are body builders.  Muscular visions.  I’ll be ready, too.

XO Jim

The Pit is pleased to announce a new solo exhibition in The Pit 2 gallery space by Jim Drain.  The exhibition consists of two sculptures incorporating Drain’s signature use of textiles as means for creating forms, as well as a wall mural painted by the artist.  The current political situation in the US heavily influenced Drain’s thought process while conceiving the exhibition, and led him to researching the Russian Constructivists and responding to Utopic ideology.

From the artist:

Originally, Junot Diaz was scheduled to speak at Redcat on January 13, 2017.  It was postponed for a good reason: Diaz was invited with several other prominent authors for a visit to the Obama White House.  A week later a new president was to be inaugurated.  When Diaz finally came and spoke in Los Angeles it was a sad February.  The audience was anxiously wanting to hear him read, wanting to express their indignation and wanting to know wtf to do next.  He said many amazing things but one thing has carried me through: In light of how well toned our dystopian muscles are (Nazis marching, nuclear war, insert many, many here), there is the need to empower our utopian ones.  We must!

Varvara Stepanova was hitting her stride as an artist at the tail end of World War One where more than four million Russians had died and just as many returned home wounded. The Constructivists believed in building a better future and art & design could be the centerpiece of this future-forward vision.  This was clear in the 2006 group exhibition catalog “Soviet Textiles, Designing the Modern Utopia” where Stepanova’s work first stood out for me: she designed uniforms, propaganda posters, textile patterns and concrete poetry with an urgency for an orderly, participatory Politic. Art could help build a better machine

For this show at the Pit 2, I looked to Stepanova’s body of work for utopic guidance. I began by reconstructing and altering Stepanova’s patterns.  Appropriating her patterns suddenly felt as though I was trolling history in the same way that bot trolls, such as espionage agent ‘cozy bear,’ have been co-opting and altering online space. I also informally traced a graphic connection to Cosmonaut propaganda of the 1950’s and thereby could see Valentina Tereshkova’s flight as emblematic of progressive Russian thought and achievement.  Tereshkova was the first woman to go into space on the Vostok 6 in 1963.  This Russian ingenuity has not waned.  For example, Russian hackers recently used Britney Spears' Instagram to communicate malware code in her comment section.

Her influence felt more prescient the more I looked: Constructivist thought influenced the Bauhaus which influenced the Black Mountain School which fostered Rauschenberg, Cunningham, Cage, Jacob Lawrence, the deKoonings, Ray Johnson (to name a few).  Her multi-disciplinary approach had a genealogy.

The two sculptures and mural point to Stepanova’s iconography in their approach more than their form.  They attempt to create a future-facing space. They are constructed future-forward thoughts and actions to keep building my own utopian muscles.  They are love letters.