The Exchange Gallery has just opened its third and last show for 2023, titled Concrete and featuring works in or about this medium by three artists. The theme follows the previous two, Wires and Rust (the latter including 16 of my photos), collectively titled Elements of Tbilisi; so, definitely going with an industrial vibe for 2023. I was present at the well-attended opening on the evening of December 2. It runs until the 30th of the month.
Ani Abramidze is working in film photography (remember that? Not dead yet by any means); primarily cyanotype. Her small monochrome prints of concrete subjects are twinned by cyanotype collages on clear film, an altogether more unusual medium. Cyanotype is one of the 19th-century photographic processes which needs a contact, as opposed to a projected, print from the negative original. In other words, you can’t use a small negative in an enlarger to get a big print: your negative and print will be the same size, as the negative is pressed onto the photographic paper under glass and the light is shone through onto the paper to expose it. If I were going to buy one of her pieces (which I’m considering), I would get both versions, the monochrome and the obvious cyanotype. My favorite photo of hers features a column with “ori kotsna” (two kisses in Georgian) painted in graffiti into it.
Oksana Vinogradova from Moscow has the only work in the show featuring actual, physical concrete: found objects, primarily. This includes “Metropolis Botanica”, three collages with pieces of the medium and other found materials. She also has had three sets of wire-connected concrete chunks suspended from the ceiling of the gallery to its floor, for viewers to wander through and observe.
Finally, Uta Gagua an illustrator, who works at the Animatory in Tbilisi, has a series of five large prints of computer-drawings based on photos of concrete subjects in Tbilisi. These he plans to release in strictly limited signed editions. One of his images, of a building detail on a street near the Marjanishvili Metro stop, has zero horizontal, vertical or even straight lines in it, wonderfully whimsically wonky. Uta is also busy developing his own animated film, for which I have seen a pitch, and it looks to be fascinating.
Gallery curator Michelle Gagnon recalls considering the show’s theme and wondering how on earth she would find enough artists in Tbilisi working in or about this esoteric medium to pull something together. “Then they just started “coming out of the woodwork’, and here we are!”
Concrete, interesting fact, is actually a vastly much older material than most people realize, going as far back as the Nabateans in what is now Syria and Jordan, about 6500 BC. (They built Petra.) It consists of an aggregate (nowadays a mix of sand and gravel) held together with liquid cement, which then solidifies in a few hours and gives it permanence. Indeed, concrete is one of the few things actually strengthened, as opposed to being corroded, by salt water. Examples of it from Roman times about two millennia ago have been preserved in this way in shallow sea areas. It is the second most commonly used substance in the world, after water, and the most used building material in the world. (It is now being improved to make it much less carbon-intensive by various experimental techniques and additives, to greatly lessen its negative environmental footprint. This is because it is a major contributor to carbon release).
Exchange Gallery will have more shows next year, and we wait eagerly to see what themes they will choose, involving primarily artists based in the Caucasus.
Exchange Gallery and Corner House Coffee
Aghmashenebeli Avenue 109, 2nd floor
Tel. +995 599 05 40 37
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11 am to 7 pm.
Exhibition closes December 30.