Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to present the online exhibition “Alexey Titarenko: The City of Dreamers,” featuring a selection of photographs of New York City, as part of an ongoing series the artist has been working on for the last twenty years. A dreamer since childhood, Titarenko came to New York from St. Petersburg in the early 2000s, found a deep affinity with the city, and made it his home. For him, the soul of New York is its people, who juggle life in a high-paced environment, busy with their daily tasks while delighting in the excitement and fulfillment that is unique to their chosen city.
Sean Corcoran, the Senior Curator of Prints and Photographs at the Museum of the City of New York, writes in Titarenko’s monograph The City is a Novel (Damiani, 2015), “To the casual observer, the city can feel cold and impersonal. However, from his (Titarenko) home in Harlem, the photographer’s meanderings revealed neighborhoods and a more intimate city whose citizens pursued their personal orbits.”
The works in “The City of Dreamers” are distinguished by Titarenko’s signature style of applying long exposure to street photography, which introduces an element of time into the two-dimensional print. The movement of cars, tree branches, and silhouettes, whether couples or an elderly woman walking a dog, are depicted against a backdrop of both turn-of-the-century façades and the multivalent, overlapping signage of the modern era. The effect of long exposure also allows Titarenko to highlight solitary figures among the crowds of pedestrians, as in 58th Street, 2012. In this image, a crowd surging across 5th Avenue softens into a blur; while the viewer’s eye is drawn to a taxicab, a street lamp, an American flag, a traffic light, and the dynamic play of the sunlight through the branches of a tree. In the lower right corner, a single figure sits in contemplation, his posture reminiscent of Rodin's famous sculpture Le Penseur (The Thinker).
In his photographs of the Flatiron building, from 2003, Titarenko creates a poetic, Whistler-like palette; the prints glow with soft twilight and imbue magic to golden street lights. These photographs echo with the famous image of the landmark building by Edward Steichen. Titarenko also highlights the rapid changes in the city over the years by drawing our attention to one of the city’s old fire alarm boxes, which were installed around a century ago to allow passers-by to alert the city to fires. Titarenko’s signature gold toning imparts to this antiquated, often overlooked object an aura of dignity, even grandeur. His photograph Morningside Park, 2015, is unique in this series in that it captures the city in a state of nature, with no buildings, streets, or vehicles visible. The only signs of the surrounding bustle of urban life are a couple and the many footprints on the snowy path at the center of the image.
A master in the darkroom, Titarenko constantly experiments with his craft and crafts each print by hand, producing a rich, subtle range of tones that renders each print unique. The prints from his New York series are labor-intensive and notable for such complicated techniques as application of partial bleaching by brush on the wet print; selective sepia, selenium, and gold toning; and the use of the nineteenth-century Sabattier effect, also known as pseudo-solarization. Titarenko’s masterful printmaking also helps to highlight his longtime interest in water and its relationship to the city, bringing out the texture and reflective quality of snow and rain and infusing each image with moisture and light.
As Corcoran writes, “… His images reflect his attempt to reach a deeper understanding of place through the effects of history. It should not be surprising, then, that Titarenko’s vision of New York resonates with the work of Alvin Langdon Coburn and Alfred Stieglitz—men who strived to embody the dynamism of the city and its people in photographs at the turn of the twentieth century. As Titarenko’s relationship with New York grows and changes, so too will the photographs he creates. It is the nature of his working method."
Titarenko’s work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide. In addition to “The City of Dreamers,” he is the subject of the solo exhibition “Alexey Titarenko: A Tale of Two Cities,” which opens at the C. Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore on January 26 and runs through March 4. The show features Titarenko’s photographs from St. Petersburg and Havana.
Titarenko’s work can be found in such museum collections as the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Columbus Museum of Art; the George Eastman House, Rochester; the European House of Photography, Paris; the Musée de l'Élysée, Lausanne; the Musée Réattu, Arles; the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the Centre National de l'Audiovisuel, Dudelange, Luxemburg; and the Museum of the City of New York, which has the largest collection of Titarenko’s New York photographs.