White House. General View

2015-2016, video, photographs of 118 modernist buildings all over the Russia. Project was exhibited in the Ground gallery at the exhibition “Simple equality = inner modernism”, curators: Anastasia Grigoryan, Anna Petrova.

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Photographer Denis Esakov’s historical series on modernist architecture in Russia from 1920s to 2000s is made up of general views of “white houses.” Opening with surprisingly compact and original constructions, like Konstantin Melnikov’s clubs and the Vesnin brothers’ department store in Presnensky District, the series continues with buildings that sprawl high and wide and gradually appropriate the entire photographic space. 

While the gigantic edifices of the 1930s (e.g., the NKVD residential complex in Yekaterinburg and the House of Press in Kazan) seem to exploit the legacy of Suprematist experiments with form, the white and grey cookie-cutter boxes from the 1970s gracefully and peacefully embody technique automation and a monumental decline in style—thus modernist grid turns into ornament.  

The Brutalist imagery of the latter half of the 20th century glorified primitive forms, laconic solutions, and visible joints; its sincerity, minimalism, and straightforward thinking accentuated by expressive and somewhat romantic mosaic and sculptural plasticity furthered the development of architectural abstraction.  

Today, in the age of concrete monoliths and 3D construction, the functionalist pathos of avant-garde, the monumental ambitions of the Stalin era, and the mass production of affordable square meters during the Khrushchev-Brezhnev period appear as quixotic experiments with bricks, blocks, frameworks, panels, and glass.  

The neoclassical White House in Washington and the box-like modernist White House in Moscow designed by former neoclassical architect Dmitry Chechulin are absent among the project’s images signifying a “white” blind spot. The audience is offered a selection of non-governmental “white houses,” which includes department stores, printing companies, clubs, garages, cinemas, and circuses as well as residential and administrative buildings. It emphasizes their evolution within a single style simultaneously revealing the original architectural archetype—a plain white box.  

Photography, idea - Denis Esakov
Text - Ania Petrova
Music - Mujuice
Assistance in aerial photography - Dmitry Vasilenko
Adaptation of the introductory text into English - Sergey Donetskov