Taken from 2000 to 2004, years after Mogutin’s exile from Russia, these candid portraits document the new generation of his country in a grip of unprecedented political and economic corruption and social decay.
Being persecuted by the Russian authorities for his unapologetically gay views and work, Mogutin is well-aware of the everyday hardship that gays and lesbians face in his motherland, yet he is far from painting a simple, one-dimentional image of his native country: “It’s such a cliché to portray Russia as a totally grim and sad place, so I was eager to show a different side of my country that is colorful, exciting, sexy and full of raw energy.”
The tongue-in-cheek subtitle of the exhibition, From Russia With Love, borrowed from the classic Cold War James Bond spy thriller, underlines this feeling of excitement and adventure while reminding us of the clandestine existence of many queer people in Russia. This love walks a tightrope and can have grave consequences.
Informed by his bicultural literary and dissident background, Mogutin’s work celebrates diversity and nonconformist thinking through the themes of displacement and identity; transgression and transfiguration of masculinity and gender crossover; urban youth subcultures and adolescent sexuality; the clash of social norms and individual desires; the tension between attachment and disaffection, hate and love. Slava Mogutin is a vocal critic of President Putin and Russia’s recent anti-gay policies.