July 01, 2020

"Painting Jesus Isn't Dangerous"

"Painting Jesus Isn't Dangerous"
The street art group Eto Vsye (“that’s everyone”).

“The police usually react with: ‘What are you drawing there? Jesus? Okay, then, finish up and move on.’” So says Arseny Bochkov, who over the past couple of years has been blanketing Moscow with images of Christ. His works, which are sometimes quite simple, leave a striking impression. They evoke an informal Orthodoxy that is full of life.

This is not the first time Moscow has seen religious symbolism crop up in unexpected places. For example, in 1999 a group of artists shrouded the dome of the Moscow Planetarium with red cloth displaying the golden letters ХВ for “Христос воскрес” – “Christ is risen,” a phrase commonly used as an Easter greeting. These letters are traditionally painted on Easter eggs in the Orthodox world. That year, Easter fell on the day before Cosmonautics Day, and the decoration of the giant egg-shaped dome was supposed to symbolize a reconciliation between scientific and religious worldviews, which had come into conflict in post-Soviet space. Today, getting the city’s permission for an installation like that would be difficult. Anyone playing fast and loose with religious symbols in contemporary Russia risks being charged with “offending the feelings of believers,” a violation that, post-Pussy Riot, in 2013 was elevated from an administrative to a criminal offense.

Nevertheless, around Easter each year, religiously themed street art continues to appear. In 2015, when Easter fell on Cosmonautics Day, the artist Alexander Zhunev glued an image of a crucified Gagarin onto the side of a building in Perm, his home town. The work was destroyed the next day but still managed to generate a lot of controversy. Zhunev got by with no more than a “legal review,” but locally the Church harshly condemned this work of art.

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See Also

The Museum of Freedom

The Museum of Freedom

On St. Petersburg’s Revolution Highway there is a museum devoted to collecting and preserving the elusive and controversial art forms of graffiti and street art.
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