"In the Present Tense" refers to the liminal space that Iliya Mirochnik and James Sondow occupied while traveling between New York and Saint Petersburg, Russia during the combined 20 years they studied at Russia’s premiere art academy. As the only two American graduates of the Repin State Institute of Arts, with its 250-year uninterrupted academic tradition, both artists integrate this Russian classical training with their American identities. They see through the forward and backward looking realities in which those two cultures and art educational systems exist to explore immediate experience, focusing on moments of transformation and channeling them in their work.

Iliya Mirochnik’s work takes root in his intimate life and family. Since leaving New York to pursue his teaching career, he has turned to exploring the new landscape, color, and mood of his immediate environment. He continues to find inspiration in new locales, allowing them to influence his palette and method of composition. “In the Present Tense” presents Mirochnik’s landscapes from Florida and the South of England, as well as his work inspired by the antique and biblical narratives to tell a personal story. James Sondow’s sculptural work employs the Old Testament, providing both a spiritual link in his life and narrative link in his work. In his piece “Moses at the Well” a young beardless Moses having slayed a slave master, flees his royal upbringing for the desert, mirroring James’ journey killing his old life in New York to spend years in Russia. There, Moses finds connection to his Jewish roots in Tsiporah, his future wife, just as James found connection with his ancestry by starting a family with his Jewish Russian model. In fact, his sculptural interpretations of Rebekah, Rachel, and Tsiporah are all incarnations of his wife. These three biblical matriarchs meet their counterparts at the Well in the desert. Metaphorically, the desert is Russia and the Well is the Academy with its spring of knowledge.

Presented together for the first time, Sondow’s singular and multi-figurative sculptural work and Mirochnik’s landscapes and intimate portraits, explore the dynamic between the grand design of biblical text and that of personal and intimate space. Individually and within the context of the show, their work finds balance between traditional and contemporary aesthetics and allegorizes religious narratives to describe the artistic and cultural identities forged from living between worlds.

Originally from Odessa, Ukraine, Iliya Mirochnik immigrated to the United States in the early 1990’s with his family. From a young age he pursued training in the arts. In 2013, Iliya completed his studies in St. Petersburg, Russia at the prestigious I.E. Repin State Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture with a Masters of Fine Arts in Painting. In his work he aims to connect the Russian aesthetic with American sensibilities, creating images that go beyond their origins. Iliya has participated in group exhibitions across the United States and has had solo shows in New York City's Dacia Gallery and Galerie Schloss Wiespach in Salzburg, Austria. Iliya has been a recipient of a number of national and international scholarships and awards, receiving the “First Place” award in the Portrait Society of America's International Portrait Competition in 2013 and “Third Place” at the Alpine Fellowship Fine Art Competition in 2017. He is also a Signature Member of the Portrait Society of America. Recently, Iliya was selected to develop his design for a public monument for Iconbay Residences in Miami, Florida in collaboration with The Related Group architecture firm. Iliya lives in Sarasota, Florida where he is a Full-Time Painting Professor at Ringling College of Art and Design.

A native New Yorker, James was first introduced to figurative drawing in his teens at the Art Students’ League. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1996, James taught art for the next decade at the Rubin Museum, Saint Ann’s School, and various public schools while studying at Pratt, SVA, and the Art Students’ League. In 2003, he began his classical training in the Russian academic method at Bridgeview School of Fine Arts in New York City. Two years of intensive summer study at Russia’s premier art academy, the Ilya Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, led James to relocate to St. Petersburg from 2007 to 2012, the first American accepted to the Institute’s sculpture department in over 20 years. After a three-year hiatus, in which he taught sculpture and drawing at the Beaux-Arts Academy in New York and Rome, he returned to the Repin Academy, graduating with highest honors and a solo show. Currently, he teaches figurative drawing and sculpture at the Princeton Academy of Art and lives in New York City, where he exhibits frequently. An elected member of the National Sculpture Society, his awards include the Rhoda Sherbell Award for Portraiture, the Agop Agopoff Memorial Award for sculpture, and the Gloria Medal at the National Sculpture Competition held at the New York Academy of Art.