Newsletter Issue:
Spring 2022

Connecting with Kites: A Visit to Aga Ousseinov’s Studio

by Susan Archer, Cohort ’20

When we entered Aga Ousseinov’s studio – albeit virtually – I noticed what initially looked like wall hangings in the background. As Ousseinov discussed his work and his interests, I was excited to know that he designs kites and has interests in aviation and futurism. In this program thus far, my quasi-independent and independent study papers have centered my research in futurist philosophy with a focus on aviation-based artworks. Immediately I thought, how cool!?! We were participating in a presentation that would likely touch on things about which I actually know something.

As Aga presented one of his kites, I wondered how someone would connect string to the structure to allow it to fly but also keep from destroying the designs and artistry on the front of the kite. I also wondered about Aga’s other kites. What do they look like? What images are painted on their solid sides? After the presentation, I researched his work and found a handful of images of kites with which I found a connection.  

The first image here is of Aga’s kite, The Ship of Babel. The primary aviation image is the parachute, but there are other images that imply or invoke aviation as a modern mechanical construct. The parachute is attached to some sort of machine – we can see representations of screw threads and we might interpret the central image as the titular ship. We also see the circular shapes at the bottom that we might interpret as windows into the mechanization of the ship’s engines.

The Ship of Babel (Kite)
Aga Ousseinov, The Ship of Babel (Kite)
118x68cm, mixed media, 2015

The second kite has an even more recognizable aviation image – an airplane with concentric circles to depict the spinning of a functioning front propeller. We see the airplane rising above the horizon and I wonder whether it is spilling gas in the multicolored dots that trail away from its wing – or maybe on a more positive note those are just droplets of water coming off the wing and the vertical red lines represent rain.

Aga Ousseinov, Aitrase (Island)
135 x 89cm, mixed media on paper, 2014
Aga Ousseinov, New and Accurate Map of The Arctic (Kite)
Ink, gouache, pencil and bamboo stripes on paper. 53x36 in, 2013

In the third work, New and Accurate Map of The Arctic (Kite), we see a machine with a variety of pipes, cogs, and wheels, which seems to have an intake on the left and something flowing out on the right. An engine perhaps? Aircraft jet engines have four stages … the first sucks air in, the second compresses that air, the third ignites a combination of the air and injected fuel, and the fourth blows the exhaust out (which then pushes the airplane forward). So, do we think the engine on the top part of this kite is a cutaway of the engine in the airplane in the bottom part of the kite (note it has no propeller so it might be a glider, or it could be a jet)? A motif similar to the bottom part of the painting on this kite seems to be the basis for Aga’s sculpture, Ice Cold War, in which we see a wire airplane above the cubist blocks that we might think resemble ice cubes.

Aga Ousseinov, Ice Cold WarWood, wire, linen, plaster and Hydrocal 84 x 56 x 53 cm, 2003
Aga Ousseinov, Ice Cold War
Wood, wire, linen, plaster and Hydrocal
84 x 56 x 53 cm, 2003

Is the implication that the machine most representative of the Cold War is the airplane? Are we looking at a sculptural representation of a Cold War aircraft flying over some ice-covered crag? And what of the disk-like section beneath the airplane? Is that part of the rocky landscape or something being dropped onto it? I have so many questions about the images in these pieces. However, I believe Aga has truly integrated the mechanization of modernism with cubist and pop art forms. The question is, what do YOU see?

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