Twenty Years After. 1989 – 2009. Exhibition Catalogue.

Dronov's progression forward occured relatively smooth and quiet, despite his clear predilection for irony and grotesque humor. For example, his "Wize men" (1988) and one of his latest works, 2008's "The Swamp", were done in a compositional style, comparable to Rodin's "The Burghers of Calais", and, moreover, there isn't an adherence to a specific era in Dronov's characters. "The Fisherman", "Old Man With Brushwood" or "The Old King" – these are also universal images for all time. And 1998's "The Last Day of Pompeii" completely immerses viewers in a high antiquity. Sculptor does not resort to any specific formal tricks here, creating folds of clothes frozen in bronze, enveloping emptiness instead of human skin, reminding us through this process of the tragedy of the befallen Italian city buried under volcanic ash.

Despite his visibly marked addiction to eternal themes, Dronov remains our contemporary. Confirmation can be found with careful attention to his famous sculpture, that in his old catalog is called "Winter Funeral", and his most recent, released in conjunction with an exhibition at the "Dom Nashokina" gallery, is called "Saxophonist". A hunched old man in a hat with earflaps and felt boots holds an instrument in his hands that contradicts his simple visage. But exactly this contrast is deliberate scheme on the sculptor's part, seeking to bring a sense of drama, absurdity and everyday character of frozen moments seen in our living in Russia, where amateur musicians torment Chopin and any type of surrealism doesn't seems frightening. However, such precise concreteness in Dronov's art is rare. His works are much closer to an unsparing formula of sculpture, invariably distinguishing itself from clear rhythmic form: "Robin Hood", "Girl at the Ball", "The Hunter", "Pioneer", "The Organ Grinder", "The Skater". In all these different themes and images and related works individual style and an acute sense of observation stand out, and these rare abilities elucidate a particular motion. The rhythm of "Night Visitors" (1987), "Octopus" (1993) and "Swan Lake" (1994), is much like black-and-white slow-motion film, which fascinates audiences. At first glance, works like "Kolbasa" (1997), "Counter Wheights" (1998), "The Ship" (2000), "The Bench" and "Valenki" (both 2001) and "The Button" (2002) appear aloof. But in principle, their respective appearances are completely logical, and the point isn't in Mikhail's inherently subtle humor. There is clear love for expression through sculpture and to laconic style. In the last piece, Dronov doesn't go to extremes, always returning to accepted standards of classical sculpture. In particular, "Saint Peter" (started in 2001 as a small work and repeated in large form in 2008) is a bright example of traditional philosophy. A powerful, monumental figure of a seated apostle is outfitted with a full set of long, pleated robes. But Dronov not always resorts to formal "weighting" of his pieces or increases in size to create deeper sense of the monumentality. His miniature work "The Hippopotamus" (1999), for example, is in no way subordinate to works from previous years. The reason for this is that Dronov is attracted to the idea of the monumentality not in the sense of the physical size of things, but in the sense that "the monumentality" has its own internal sense of rhythm. And there's one more interesting inherent characteristic here, that appears in works of many artists: the self-portrait as an aspect of the portrait genre. "Saint Peter" is obviously not a self-portrait, but it's also visible that it wasn't just for fun that Dronov has photographed himself not far from the mighty figure of the apostle in the same pose.

Mikhail Dronov's art conveys the impression of thoroughness and calm certainty, when a person is able to say not only "I am looking for something", but "i've found it".

William Meiland

February – March 2010