A Neuronet Can Do This Too

02.03 – 05.04.2024
Kirill Lebedev (Kto) and Tatiana Budyak
Syntax Gallery is pleased to present a joint exhibition of works by Kirill Lebedev (Kto) and Tatiana Budyak.

The solemn definition of 'artistic dynasty' does not seem to fit Tatiana Budyak and Kirill Kto. After all, a dynasty usually implies an alternative to education, a family 'academy' where secrets of craftsmanship are passed down from one generation to another – not in the classroom but through the air – thanks to the very atmosphere of the home workshop itself. But the mother, a physical engineer by profession, and the son, whose only profession has been street art, are both autodidacts, having mastered their respective crafts – mosaic and text compositions – independently, carving their paths for themselves. Besides, a dynasty suggests a free ticket into the world of art, with the young following in the footsteps of their elders. But it was the son, already an acclaimed master of Russian street art by the age of 25, who helped his aspiring designer mother to embark on her exhibition career. And yet they can be regarded as a dynasty as the artists are bound by the tension of internal conflict: between the utopia of free art in public spaces and the interior easel painting practice, between the intimate format and monumental ambitions, between the dream of the street and the reality of the room, ever leaving which is a mistake, as we are well aware.

Tatiana Budyak's mosaics, created with tile shards instead of smalt, are small in scale, yet easy to mistake for sketches of giant decorative panels. These alleged sketches involuntarily remind us of the monumental art dating back to The Thaw the Era of Stagnation, utterly schematic or totally abstract mosaic compositions that were conceived as part of the architectural ensembles of Soviet post-war modernism. In the 1960s, this reserve of modernism was Zelenograd, the Soviet microelectronics capital, where Tatyana Budyak worked as an engineer and where Kirill Kto was born and later drifted across the city, digging up tiles for his mother's mosaics in rubbish tips or buildings signed off for demolition. It is this rubbish that makes up memories of a failed future – in the 1990s, when the utopia of the science town had been resigned to the past, Zelenograd mosaics, like all of those throughout the entire former USSR, were starting to deteriorate or get dismantled.

However, the outdated monumental project was replaced by a different, spontaneous one: the concrete jungle of modernist districts turned out to be a natural habitat for hip-hop culture and graffiti: by the end of the 1990s, Kirill Kto was responsible for organising the first graffiti festivals in Zelenograd. Soviet monumentalism and post-Soviet street art: the fact that mother and son turn to successive forms of urban design paradoxically reflects dynastic continuity. The utopia of anarchist street art bit the dust fairly quickly as well: social networks, urban appropriation, anti-vandalism campaigns – all of these drove the artist from the streets and into the studio. But the playful multi-coloured Cyrillic of Kirill Kto, even when taken from the wall to the canvas, preserves the memory of the language of the street, of living colloquial speech.
Kirill Kto is a cult figure in Moscow's street art subculture, and has contributed to it not only through his diverse artistic practice, but also as one of the few theorists and curators of street art. Lebedev was involved in street art as part of the Zachem? collective (2002-2009) and No Future Forever collective (2005-2009). He co-organised Pasha 183's posthumous solo show Our Work is a Feat! at Moscow Museum of Modern Art (2014); initiated and oversaw the first street art prize in Russia, Street Contribution (2013); and co-curated the Wall project at Winzavod Center for Contemporary Art (2010–2013). Lives and works in Moscow.