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Am I Beautiful?
Maria Yastrebova, "Untitled", from "Mordysh" series, 2011 1/5, 50x33 cm

Am I Beautiful?

7 Emerging Russian Photographers

Tina Chevalier » Oleg Dou » Margo Ovcharenko » Sonia & Mark Whitesnow » Dasha Yastrebova » Maria Yastrebova »

Exhibition: 13 Sep – 28 Nov 2013

RTR / Russiantearoom gallery

74 rue Joseph de Maistre
75018 Paris



Tue-Sat 14-19 +

For its 38th exhibition, the RTR Gallery is pleased to present " Am I Beautiful ? ", a collective exhibition of 25 artworks by emerging Russian photographers (most of them unpublished) on the theme of our connection to beauty.

The exhibition " Am I Beautiful ? " Presents seven contemporary visions of perceiving beauty in the age of Facebook , Photoshop , Botox , porn movies , and the artificial inflation of images in our daily life.

Faithful to the gallery's line, the exhibition " Am I Beautiful ? " includes works from established russian artists on the international scene, such as Margo Ovcharenko or Oleg Dou (an artist that the gallery discovered and supported since the beginning of his career), along with budding young career artists who for some of them, like Maria Yastrebova , exhibit their work in Europe for the first time .

Why Beauty ?

The concept of beauty, originally an abstract idea , has now become a currency, an accessible and achievable dream . When you search " Am I Beautiful ? on internet, you end up answering primary questions ( Are you tall ? Thin ? a smiling person? ) Nowadays beauty is measured , weighed , valued and judged according to standards established by the canons of global marketing popularized by artistic directors of advertising campaigns.

If certain periods of our history have appreciated equally intellect, knowledge, science and love of beauty, our society today seems to value appearance over meaning, favoring a continuous consumption of images that are scrolling as quickly as they are forgotten.

RTR gallery got interested in how the artists look at a world where beauty is interchangeable with cash value .

The young artists from ”Am I beautiful? "are part of this new generation that reuses and reinvents in their creations the codes of contemporary visual language. They can either push it to their ends as Oleg Dou does, their origins as Maria Yastrebova or their aesthetic essence as Whitesnow. At the center of their work, all of them, may be without fully realizing it, evoke the human image with its myriad différences.

By their individuality, each one of them offers an answer to the syndrome of our rapid, frantic and unhealthy consumption of everything. ‘Am I Beautiful’ is also an opportunity to immerse yourself into the story of our own reflection and to discover the fascinating, energetic, ironic, poetic and courageous Russian artists supported by RTR gallery for the past 7 years.

Margo Ovcharenko works on the awkwardness of young people. She manages to externalize their doubts, their suffering, their constant self-questioning and, of course, their image. Margo "photographs people that are dressed as if they were vulnerably stripped naked yet as if they were covered by a sort of personal protection."

The self-taught artistic duet, Sonia & Mark Whitesnow, was born as a form of resistance, an escape from their mundane life in a stuffy provincial town without future. They depict dream girls with sunburned knees, gymnasts from elsewhere in an atmosphere between the ethereal dream and reality.

Oleg DOU equipped with his Photoshop scalpel goes much further. The characters in "Eyes" and "Hair" look like in-between two surgeries and exude a silent suffering. The new photograph "Victoria" is like a modern Ophelia embedded in the sublimity of her pallor.

Dasha Yastrebova delivers, not without irony, a series of portraits - of media images of "ideal" women, worshipped like role models: "Madonna," "Diva," "Rock Star," "Pin-up" "Lolita." Today’s women, fueled by the insistent message of the press adopt their poses, attitudes, and behavior and are sacrificing their own style and individuality. These masks, that people wear now from a very young age, are an easier alternative to making their own choices and being responsible for them.

The story of Tina Chevalier entitled " Christina ", presented in the form of a multimedia project is breathtaking . This is about the story of a young woman from the ancient city of Uglitch who dreams to marry Prince Harry. Christina lost her mother and lives, homeless, in a garage with no electricity or heating. She creates her own clothes and eccentric accessories and has the reputation of being an outcast. We feel great affection and admiration for the mental and physical strength of this woman after watching her video. It is an act of resistance for Christina to be a dignified woman , yet it leads her to be expelled from the Russian system which condemns and mocks the power of people like her .

The youngest artist amongst the seven, is Maria Yastrebova, only 19 years old. Maria made a series called " Mordysh " (which reminds us of old postcards ) during the summer of 2011 which she spent with children of the countryside. Out of nothing, without any modern tools , she decided to play with them and take photographs. She invited them to travel in a fairy dream world , where even the poorest peasant could become a princess . These children, like all children, embraced this game and made their own costumes, building their own characters and developing their stories.

Maria Yastrebova is in a constant pursuit of beauty. She is one of the rare young photographers that manages to magnify reality with very simple means: an ordinary camera, outdated film and a great understanding of how to link composition with emotion and meaning.

Despite her young age, Maria Yastrebova firmly believes in giving back some poetry and hope for the world to have a "better ending ." Her countercurrent project requires a constant strength of character to look at her "models" without the filter of contemporary visual trends...

"I want my pictures to be beautiful, the people on the pictures are beautiful ."