Tango with Cows
Farm animals engaged in a sophisticated dance is how poet Vasily Kamensky represented the incongruous entanglement between Russia’s rural past and sweeping modernism. In his book Tango with Cows, he abandoned syntax to explore visual poetry. Liubov Popova was part of such radical movements. The Traveler was painted when she was committed to abstraction but still maintained recognizable forms: a yellow necklace draws the eye to a hidden female form. Nearby, a collar follows the curve of a cape against a cochleated armrest. The neck, head, and part of a hat are discernible. A green umbrella, firmly clutched, takes front center, its generous flaps against the passenger’s legs and feet below. The seated figure delineated, the viewer can make out passing scenery: a railing, a flag, some green. Shop signs and guideposts show “dangerous zone,” “…magazines,” “natural gas.”
Popova recaptured not just the fragments of a broken image but also revolutionary concepts vital to public health. Her traveler, so directly connected with everything, carries with her everything, wherever she goes. And as she moves elegantly, she changes as does the landscape. She is faster or slower. She picks up things from one place and deposits them in another, ambivalent about past, present, or future. Just as the rapid influx of technology produced radical art movements, an explosion of travel around the world has irrevocably globalized everything, dragging the rural cow into the metropolitan area to tango. The close meeting of different worlds, back and forth, from country to country and countryside to city, is making the old from the old environment ripe for emergence of the new in a new environment.