Mind Bending Art Takes Hold At Tate Modern

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Tate Modern ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 47 months ago

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Mind Bending Art Takes Hold At Tate Modern Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Tate Modern 3
Go underground in this spectacular installation of train tracks with art works on the platform. © Ilya & Emilia Kabakov

Tate Modern's new exhibition is like wandering inside the mind of an artist, and it's both eerie and fascinating.

We enter a labyrinth of corridors as if we're in a slightly run down block of flats. We move through doors — the walls contain text and photographs of Ilya Kabakov's life. We can hear him singing as we navigate through the maze.

This is just one of the creative and mind-bending installations in the exhibition about Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, a husband and wife artist team known for their surreal and inventive artworks created during and after the Soviet era.

Paintings are altered to make us question what we are seeing. © Ilya & Emilia Kabakov Photograph courtesy the artists and Pace Gallery

The exhibition opens with early works by Ilya which challenge the viewer. His take on Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man has the proportions out of whack, and a blank blue canvas is simultaneously presented as the sky, sea and a lake.  In another fun take, a saccharine domestic scene is partially obscured with sweet wrappers to make it even sweeter.

Wind your way around an autobiographical labyrinth as the artist's voice sings to you. © Ilya & Emilia Kabakov

It's when Ilya and Emilia combine forces to put massive installations together that the work steps up a gear. A mock communal apartment can only be viewed from the door, making visitors into voyeurs of this sparse living space. The story continues next door with cooking pots and pans suspended from the ceiling as if they are flying about.

Abstract collages take over one room of this show. © Ilya & Emilia Kabakov Photograph by Kerry Ryan McFate, courtesy Pace Gallery

The Kabakovs have fun creating new worlds, including a museum where only tiny people can see the contemporary art, while the more classical works are only fully visible to giant visitors — a comment on how contemporary art is still considered by many to be inferior to the Old Masters.

This idea of little people continues with an abandoned jacket in the corner which is crested by a line of paper cut out figures. It's surreal, truly bizarre and a testament to the creative imaginations of the Kabakovs.

A communal apartment is recreated for the brilliantly titled the man who flew into space from his apartment. © Ilya & Emilia Kabakov

Other rooms feature art that can only be viewed through a monocular, and a man climbing a set of stairs so he can reach the angel coming towards him.

The artists construct rich detailed narratives behind each of their creations. It's all highly conceptual but fun at the same time.

Sculptures abound too, portraying imagined realities. © Ilya & Emilia Kabakov

The installations are the true highlights of this exhibition, with the paintings seeming tame and a tad dull in comparison. The best approach is to enter with an open mind and just enjoy the roller coaster ride through the many imaginary worlds.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Not everyone will be taken into the future is on at Tate Modern until 28 January. Tickets are £11.3o for adults.

Last Updated 17 November 2017