Private Moon at Bass museum 2009

Russian art "Russian Dreams" take place at Bass Museum in Miami 2008

Bittersweet modern Russian art By Jackie Wullschlager

"Beauty, though, will save the world," wrote Dostoyevsky in The Idiot. Generations of artists and writers played out that uniquely Russian glittering idealism: first building revolutionary utopias - Malevich's and Kandinsky's abstraction, supposed to herald a new spiritual reality - then turning to "underground" art as an inner emigration, a morally authentic opposition to communist oppression. Seventeen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is anything left of that ecstatic seriousness in Russian art today?

The poster image for Russian Dreams is a slice of a phosphorescent green moon pulled down to perch on a roof terrace giving on to a vast twinkling city. It comes from Leonid Tishkov's ravishing photographic series "Private Moon", shown in Paris earlier this year - a work of formal beauty choreographed with photographer Boris Bendikov to cast Tishkov as lost hero of a modern fairy tale, journeying through different worlds and into dreams to protect his imagination. The big fake fluorescent moon set variously within a diamond blue stage set, zooming in at an open window, hanging low over a shadowy figure in a water garden, bringing flickering romance to a giant Moscow apartment block, reminded me all at once of the moonlit views of the Dnieper by 19th-century landscapist Arkhip Kuindzhi (the revelation at the National Gallery's 2004 Russian Landscape in the Age of Tolstoy show), Gogol's urban fairy tales such as the proto-surreal "The Overcoat", and the revolutionary opera Victory over the Sun, designed by Malevich, where the sun is captured and brought down to earth, plunging the world into darkness to prepare for a new cosmic order. Tishkov similarly pulls the moon out of the sky to recast everyday life, but with the 21st-century ambivalence towards lost utopias, melancholy and sense of disconnection that characterise all the works in Miami.

Russian Dreams', Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, to February 8.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008