Slava Mogutin by Bruce LaBruce
Slava Mogutin is a New York-based Russian-American artist and writer, exiled from Russia for his outspoken writrings and activism. Mogutin's work is informed by his bicultural literary and dissident background, encompassing the themes of displacement and identity; transgression and disfiguration of masculinity and gender crossover; urban youth subcultures and adolescent sexuality; the clash of social norms and individual desires; the tension between attachment and disaffection, hate and love.
Born Yaroslav Yurievich Mogutin (Ярослав Юрьевич Могутин) in the industrial city of Kemerovo, Siberia, he left his family and moved to Moscow at age 14. He soon began working as a journalist and editor for the first independent Russian newspapers, publishers, and radio stations, hailed as one of the foremost voices of the post-Perestroika new journalism and the only openly gay personality in the Russian media.
By the age of 21, he had gained both critical acclaim and official condemnation and became the target of two highly publicized criminal cases, carrying a potential prison sentence of up to seven years. He was charged with “open and deliberate contempt for generally accepted moral norms,” “malicious hooliganism with exceptional cynicism and extreme insolence,” “inflaming social, national, and religious division,” “propaganda of brutal violence, psychic pathology, and sexual perversions.” In 1994, Mogutin attempted to register officially the first same-sex marriage in Russia with his then-partner, American artist Robert Filippini. The attempt made headlines around the world, but only further fueled his persecution by the authorities.
Forced to leave Russia in 1995, Mogutin was granted political asylum in the U.S. with the support of Amnesty International and PEN American Center, among other prominent human rights groups. Upon his arrival in New York, he shifted his focus to visual art and started using his nickname Slava—"glory" or "fame" in Russian—as his artist name.
Mogutin's photography and multimedia work have been exhibited internationally, including MoMA PS1 and Museum of Arts and Design in New York; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco; The Pacific Design Center in LA; Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston; Moscow Museum of Modern Art; Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam; Overgaden Institute of Contemporary Art in Copenhagen; Estonian KUMU Art Museum in Tallinn; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC) in Spain; and The Haifa Museum of Art in Israel. His work has been featured in a wide range of publications, including i-D, Flash Art, Modern Painters, Visionaire, L’Uomo Vogue, Stern, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post. He is a regular contributor to Whitewall, Vice, Flaunt, and The Stranger.
Mogutin is the author of two hardcover monographs of photography, Lost Boys and NYC Go-Go (powerHouse Books, 2006 and 2008), and seven books of writings published in Russian. In 2000, Mogutin was awarded the Andrei Bely Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Russia. His poetry, fiction, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies in ten languages. He has translated into Russian selected works of Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Dennis Cooper. Mogutin has lectured extensively throughout the U.S., including Columbia University, Yale, Harvard, Harriman Institute, Grinnell College, Stevens Institute of Technology, Middlebury College, The New School, and School of Visual Arts. As an actor he appeared in Bruce LaBruce’s Skin Flick (1999) and Laura Colella’s independent feature Stay Until Tomorrow (2004).
In 2004, together with his partner and collaborator Brian Kenny, Mogutin co-founded SUPERM, a collaborative art project responsible for site-specific gallery and museum shows in the U.S. and across Europe.