Slava Mogutin & Brian Kenny
“The name SUPERM came after some deliberations, but the
artwork happened immediately. I never let beauty go to waste.”
— Slava Mogutin
Born in Siberia, Slava Mogutin is New-York based multimedia artist and writer. Known for his outspoken journalism, activism and art addressing gay rights, Mogutin left Russia for political asylum in the U.S. in 1995. Mogutin’s work continues to have a strong focus on queer identity, displacement, masculinity and gender crossover, youth subcultures and sexuality, social norms versus individuality, and the tension between love and hate.
Born on an American military base in Heidelberg, Germany, Brian Kenny is an American multimedia artist. Kenny has also worked in fashion for brands such as Walter Van Beirendonck, Petrou\Man, Max Kibardin for Bruno Magli, etc. His work has shown in the US, Canada, Russia, Israel and Europe.
The brainchild of artists Slava Mogutin and Brian Kenny, SUPERM is an international multimedia art team. SUPERM installs multimedia gallery and museum shows in multiple countries using any and all mediums, materials and performers to create unique, site-specific experiences. SUPERM responds to war propaganda, censorship, media brainwashing, state-induced paranoia, and infringement of personal freedom.
Please Do Not Enter
Please Do Not Enter is a progressive men’s luxury retail and exhibition space in downtown Los Angeles. Its collection of contemporary goods is curated by founders and veteran art collectors Nicolas Libert and Emmanuel Renoird, who recently relocated to LA from France.
Slava Mogutin and Brian Kenny became partners in love and art the day they met ten years ago. Together they founded SUPERM, a multimedia art team whose work fuses the private and public – reveling in gay identity and sexuality while exposing the irony of modern politics and social injustice. Multimedia, in SUPERM’s case, is to say any medium available including themselves and friends to create a chaotic, transgressive, and deeply symbolic body of work. Their site-specific installations have appeared in galleries and museums internationally.
We had the chance to sit down with Slava and Brian to talk about their first West Coast solo show, SUPERM FRUIT, at Downtown LA’s Please Do Not Enter (July 17–August 15). During their time in LA, SUPERM has also been producing a collaborative video project commissioned by Please Do Not Enter, premiering at the gallery July 31 along with a special event of poetry, drawing, and performance.
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) was a French poet whose work prefigured surrealism and influenced modern literature and the arts. A poet from a very young age, Rimbaud ceased writing by the age of 21. Rimbaud spoke often of becoming a “seer”, of reaching one’s thoughts into the unknown. He explained his thinking method as a “derangement of the senses”.
Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) was a Russian Soviet poet, playwright, artist, and actor. As a teenager, he was passionate about Marxist Literature and joined in the activities of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, which he would later join (as a Bolshevik). His poetry was influential both in its Soviet themes and also in establishing him as a pioneer of early 20th-century Russian Futurism.
Peter the Great
Peter the Great (1672-1725), or Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich, was the Tsar of Russia and later the Russian Empire. His physical presence and mannerisms were described as very powerful, loud, and ruthless. Peter the Great, a self-given title, was always eager to learn and be active. Under his rule, the Russian Empire expanded and became a major European power. His reign led a cultural revolution introducing more modern, scientific, and European social and political methods based on The Enlightenment.
Gio Black Peter
Born Giovanni Paolo Andrade in Guatemala, Gio Black Peter is a New York-based musician, performer and visual artist. His paintings have been exhibited in the U.S. and internationally. As an actor he appeared in the films “Eban and Charley” (2000) and “Otto; or Up With Dead People” (2008). He has collaborated with SUPERM on several shows under the name Sputnik3.
Luke Gilford is a photographer, filmmaker, collage and installation artist from California. Gilford’s work is equally interested in digital and analog creation. Gilford has made music videos and has collaborated on short films with brands such as Prada ad Dom Perignon.
Issue: Where are you from?
Slava Mogutin: I was born in Siberia, in the big industrial city of Kemerovo, the Detroit of Russia. It’s mostly known for a series of deadly chemical explosions and massive coal mining disasters.
Brian Kenny: I was born on a US military base in Heidelberg, Germany. Both of my parents were in the Army, so I had a nomadic upbringing living on and off base all across America—Tennessee, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia, and New Jersey— before landing in New York.
Issue: How and when did you guys first meet?
Brian: We met nearly ten years ago in the East Village at a nightclub called Opaline. At the time I was living in New Jersey and Slava in Brooklyn…
Slava: It was a perfect bridge-and-tunnel romance at first glance!
“He was a terrible dancer and
it totally turned me on. ”
— Brian Kenny
Brian: I remember first seeing him when I went outside to smoke and here was this hot Eastern European guy in a yellow tank top and a blue hat nearby checking me out. When he went back inside I followed him and asked him to dance with me. He was a terrible dancer and it totally turned me on. Before long we left the club together. The rest is history…
Issue: When did you start SUPERM? And what is it?
Slava: SUPERM is our lovechild. It’s the name we give to our collaborative work. We both have our independent pursuit— mine being photography and text, Brian’s drawing and sound— and together we create everything else: film, sculpture, painting, installations, etc.
Brian: SUPERM is also an open art platform— it’s not only collaborative efforts between Slava and I, but also working with fellow artists and creatives that we meet and collaborate with us along the way.
Slava: Yes, collaboration is the spirit of our time and we enjoy working with art stars and newcomers alike!
Issue: How and when did you decide that this is what you were going to do?
Slava: The name SUPERM came after some deliberations, but the artwork happened immediately. I never let beauty go to waste.
Brian: The morning after (a sexy sleepless night) we met, this sexy guy told me that he was going to film a friend lying on the street in the middle of a black Muslim neighborhood in Brooklyn, wearing only boots and a diaper, covered in broken eggs. He asked me if I wanted to join in and be the guy throwing the eggs at his friend. I thought this was the weirdest thing I’d ever been asked and, of course, I agreed! I later made the soundtrack for what would be our first film and project we made together.
Slava: 10 years later, SUPERM has become the glue that keeps us together.
Issue: What’s the story behind getting started and the name?
Brian: The name is inspired by a tattoo on Slava’s back in Cyrillic that reads SUPERMOGUTIN….
Slava: My last name means “mighty” in Russian, so I turned it into SUPERMIGHTY, as a sort of an updated queer version of Nietzsche’s Übermensch.
Brian: …so we thought it was funny to shorten it down to the more sassy SUPERM.
Slava: SU & PERM, that’s how they call us these days.
Issue: Who influenced you growing up and who influences you today?
Slava: Growing up I was obsessed with Rimbaud, Mayakovsky, and Peter the Great. I was born on the Soviet Space Day and was dreaming of becoming a space dog.
Brian: And that’s why if we ever have dogs we’re naming them Laika, Belka and Strelka. But yeah, I’m most inspired by the amazing artists and friends working around me today like Gio Black Peter, Luke Gilford, Josh Lee, Woodkid, Erika Keck and Zackary Drucker, to name just a few.
Issue: How would you describe your genre / style / positioning / niche?
Brian: We’re multimedia.
Slava: We’re independent.
Brian: We’re co-dependent.
Slava: But it’s an open relationship.
Slava: From the gutter to the penthouse.
Brian: And back again.
Slava: You’re what you fuck / you’re who you eat.
Issue: What do you feel have been some important accomplishments? What was the process like?
Slava: We’ve been fortunate enough to create some great shows together, like the one we did at MUSAC in Spain with lots of customized school desks and chairs, covered with our fetish gear and graffiti in Spanish, English, and Russian. Or the show at Station Museum in Houston, when we went on a nearby ranch and shot a bunch of Brian’s Target Drawings through the glass and the frames. Some years later, I showed the documentation of that shooting to George Condo, who did a fantastic shotgun painting show with Burroughs back in the early 80’s, and he found it very amusing. What can be sexier than fags with guns, right?
Josh Lee is a young multimedia artist based in Denver and New York. A former professional model, he became one of Slava’s favorite photographic subjects and a long-term collaborator. Josh’s artwork is primarily large-scale fabric-based sculptures. His work has been featured in several group exhibitions and he has collaborated on several film and print projects with SUPERM.
Woodkid is the stage name of French, neo-folk musician, Yoann Lemoine. In addition to his music, Lemoine is a music video director and graphic designer. He has worked on videos for musicians the likes of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Lana Del Rey. He released his first EP, “Iron EP”, as Woodkid in 2011 and his first album “The Golden Age” in 2013.
Originally from New Mexico, Erika Keck is an American painter and 3-D artist based in New York.
Zackary Drucker is a visual, video and performance artist based in Los Angeles and represented by the Jesus de Luis gallery. Drucker’s work challenges ways of seeing gender, sexuality, and being via participatory art between the viewer and subject. The collaborative work of Drucker and her transgender partner Rhys Ernst were included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León is a contemporary art museum in the city of León, Spain. The Museum was inaugurated in 2005 and was formerly directed by Agustín Pérez Rubio.
The Station Museum of Contemporary Art is a private museum in Houston, Texas focused on local contemporary art. The museum was opened in 2001 and is directed by James Harithas.
George Condo is a contemporary visual artist from Concord, New Hampshire. His art covers various mediums including painting, sculpture, and printmaking. Condo currently lives and works in New York City.
William S Burroughs
William S Burroughs was an American writer, painter, and performer. Burroughs is a primary figure of the Beat Generation and his work has affected a range of popular culture and literature.
King Krule is an English musician and singer-songwriter. After he began recording in 2010, King Krule, also known as Archy Marshall, has released several EPs and a full-length debut album, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon.
Gerontophilia is a film written and directed by Bruce La Bruce in 2013.
Brian: I have no interest in owning a gun but shooting them is, in fact, a blast!
Slava: Our process is simple— we agree on an exciting idea and split up the work. I do the camera work and direction and Brian does the post-production, or I’ll paint the background and Brian the foreground, or he cuts up the pieces and I glue them together…
Issue: How does it feel to be where you are at?
Slava: In the words of our friend Rufus Wainwright, “Success is exhausting.”
Brian: But the truth is we’ve only just begun…
Slava: It seems like it was just yesterday.
“Sleep when you’re young”
— Slava Mogutin
Brian: As Slava says, “Sleep when you’re young.”
A white Minnesota teenager who wears a durag and calls himself Spooky Black. In 2014 he released his first LP album, Black Silk, which brought him a following among wiggers and their admirers alike.
Issue: Tell us about the project you are working on now (or just finished).
Brian: We just put up a show of our recent work at Please Do Not Enter, and have been working on a film commission, which was cast, shot, and edited on the spot during our stay in Downtown LA in the last couple of weeks.
Slava: It’s called SKY HIGH and features some incredible talent from LA, New York and Paris.
Issue: What’s your favorite album / book / artist / film right now?
Slava: King Krule.
Brian: Spooky Black.
Slava: Bruce LaBruce’s new film, “Gerontophilia.”
Brian: Slava’s new book, “Food Chain.”
Issue: What are your interests and passions outside of your art and expression?
Slava: BBC (Big Black Cock).
Brian: Walking though the city.
Slava: My flock of mourning doves.
Brian: Sexual tension during rush hour at the gym.
Slava: Our family of phallic cacti.
Brian: Season finales on Netflix.
Slava: Jalapeño margaritas.
Issue: How do you feel about the rising creative scene in LA?
Slava: We love the vibe in LA! It’s really bubbling up!
“LA is the perfect place for art making
because the weather and light are
so favorable and the space is wide and you
get so much more for far less…”
— Brian Kenny
Brian: As we’ve discovered, it’s the perfect place for art-making because the weather and light are so favorable and the space is wide and you get so much more for far less…
Slava: …and the boys are ready, willing and able!
Issue: What’s next?
Slava: We have big celebrations coming up for SUPERM’s 10th anniversary, with shows, performances and screenings in New York, London, Madrid, and Zurich…
Brian: …and an artist residency-retreat in India, which we’re very much looking forward to!
Pink Narcissus, 2011, courtesy of SUPERM and Please Do Not Enter
Crocodile Heart, 2011, courtesy of SUPERM and Please Do Not Enter
Pussyface, 2011, courtesy of SUPERM and Please Do Not Enter
Americass (Slava), 2008, courtesy of SUPERM and Galleri s.e
Out of Order, 2012, courtesy of SUPERM and Please Do Not Enter, photo: Slava Mogutin
The FMF Chair, 2008, courtesy of SUPERM and Galleri s.e
Shut Up Drum, 2008, courtesy of SUPERM and Galleri s.e
Starfucker Fish (installation detail), 2008, courtesy of SUPERM and Galleri s.e
Sputnik 3 (installation overview), 2008, courtesy of SUPERM and Galleri s.e
Sputnik 3 bathroom mural, 2008, courtesy of SUPERM and Galleri s.e
SUPERM, 2012, courtesy of Bruce LaBruce and The Hole
SUPERM shooting Target Drawings in Bergen, 2009, courtesy of SUPERM and Galleri s.e
All images courtesy of SUPERM