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Zhenya Machneva inside her installation White Pavilion. Photo ©Tanya Akhmetgalieva

10 Artists to Watch in the New Museum Triennial: Zhenya Machneva

Paul Laster

Our first pick from the prescient New York triennial's fourth edition is a Russian artist whose hand-crafted tapestries narrate industrial decline.

Zhenya Machneva inside her installation White Pavilion. Photo ©Tanya Akhmetgalieva

Since Younger than Jesus, its 2009 first installment, the New Museum Triennial has been a key date on the New York art–world calendar. As the city’s only recurring show devoted to international emerging artists, it provides an indispensable first look at the people and practices who will help define the field in years to come. 2018’s event, subtitled Songs for Sabotage, gathers thirty artists and collectives linked by their interest in disrupting the hierarchies of propaganda, power, control that shape our lives and cultures.

Beginning today and continuing daily over the next two weeks, GARAGE identifies and introduces ten triennial artists to watch.

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If you thought the rust belt was a purely American phenomenon, think again. In the Soviet era, Russia developed scores of single-industry towns dependent on trades that are now on the verge of extinction. And while it would be disingenuous to suggest that Zhenya Machneva (born 1988 in Leningrad, Russia; based in St. Petersburg, Russia) takes pleasure in the gradual collapse of this aspect of her homeland’s economic might, the young Russian artist does admit to appreciating the “gloomy beauty” of its abandoned plants and factories.

Exhibiting in the US for the first time at the New Museum, St. Petersburg-based Machneva is showing a series of tapestries that reflect on such sites’ looks and legacies. Her first works on the theme were inspired by a visit to the crumbling phone factory where her grandfather toiled for forty years, and were discovered by the triennial’s curators, Gary Carrion-Murayari and Alex Gartenfeld, at the 2015 Ural Industrial Biennial. (The event took place at the Kaslinsky Plant of Art Casting, yet another business in decline.)

Machneva—a member of the Union of Artists of Russia who holds degrees from St. Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design and the School of Young Artists—hand-weaves the tapestries, prompting comparisons between the obsolescence associated with the places she depicts and her own choice of time-consuming craft—one that she also sees as a form of conscious resistance to art’s ongoing digital drift.

2018 Triennial: Songs for Sabotage is on view at the New Museum, New York, from February 13 through May 27.

Zhenya Machneva, CHP-14, 2016. Courtesy of the artist
Zhenya Machneva, Project: Edition1/1 "Shuvalov and pioneers", 2015. Courtesy of the artist and the Ural branch of the NCCA, 3rd Ural Industrial Biennial