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Artist probes Russia's toxic legacy through family history

A Russian artist has put a spotlight on what he calls "the ruins of a Soviet mythology" with a new exhibit that focuses on the chemical industry in his hometown.

The exhibit at Moscow's Museum of Modern Art features Pavel Otdelnov's architecturally precise paintings of decayed factories in the city of Dzerzhinsk interspersed with objects from factory workers' daily lives.

Otdelnov was born into a "labor dynasty" that gave the city, the center of Soviet chemical manufacturing, several generations of chemical workers. His mother boiled his parents' bedding daily because his father's skin absorbed chemicals and yellowed the sheets.

In this handout photo taken on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, Pavel Otdelnov's work «Passage» is on display at an exhibition in Moscow, Russia . Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist who grew up in Dzerzhinsk, the center of the nation's chemical industries 355 kilometers (220 miles) east of Moscow, focused on the city, one of the most polluted in Russia, in his new 'Promzona' art show. (Pavel Otdelnov, Photo via AP)

Many plants that were part of the military industrial complex didn't survive the collapse of the Soviet Union, but their toxic waste remains buried in underground dumps or seeping from landfills.

In this handout photo taken on Thursday, March 10, 2016, Pavel Otdelnov's work «Ruins. Glory to Labor» is on display at an exhibition in Moscow, Russia . Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist who grew up in Dzerzhinsk, the center of the nation's chemical industries 355 kilometers (220 miles) east of Moscow, focused on the city, one of the most polluted in Russia, in his new 'Promzona' art show. (Pavel Otdelnov, Photo via AP)

In this handout photo taken on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, Pavel Otdelnov's work «Boom Barrier» is on display at an exhibition in Moscow, Russia. Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist who grew up in Dzerzhinsk, the center of the nation's chemical industries 355 kilometers (220 miles) east of Moscow, focused on the city, one of the most polluted in Russia, in his new 'Promzona' art show. (Pavel Otdelnov, Photo via AP)

In this photo taken on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, visitors attend an exhibition by Russian artist Pavel Otdelnov in Moscow, Russia . Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist who grew up in Dzerzhinsk, the center of the nation's chemical industries 355 kilometers (220 miles) east of Moscow, focused on the city, one of the most polluted in Russia, in his new 'Promzona' art show. (AP PhotoIvan Kochkarev)

In this handout photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, Pavel Otdelnov's work «Ruins #6» is on display at an exhibition in Moscow, Russia . Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist who grew up in Dzerzhinsk, the center of the nation's chemical industries 355 kilometers (220 miles) east of Moscow, focused on the city, one of the most polluted in Russia, in his new 'Promzona' art show. (Pavel Otdelnov, Photo via AP)

In this photo taken in 2018 and provided by Pavel Otdelnov, A view of an abandoned industrial building of the factory "Zarya" in Dzerzhinsk, is on display at an exhibition in Moscow, Russia. Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist who grew up in Dzerzhinsk, the center of the nation's chemical industries 355 kilometers (220 miles) east of Moscow, focused on the city, one of the most polluted in Russia, in his new 'Promzona' art show. (Pavel Otdelnov, Photo via AP)

In this photo taken on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, visitors attend an exhibition by Russian artist Pavel Otdelnov, in Moscow, Russia . Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist who grew up in Dzerzhinsk, the center of the nation's chemical industries 355 kilometers (220 miles) east of Moscow, focused on the city, one of the most polluted in Russia, in his new 'Promzona' art show. (AP PhotoIvan Kochkarev)

In this photo taken on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist poses for a photo in front of his work "Ruins #4" at his an exhibition in Moscow, Russia . Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist who grew up in Dzerzhinsk, the center of the nation's chemical industries 355 kilometers (220 miles) east of Moscow, focused on the city, one of the most polluted in Russia, in his new 'Promzona' art show. (AP PhotoIvan Kochkarev)

In this photo taken on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, visitors attend an exhibition by Russian artist Pavel Otdelnov in Moscow, Russia . Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist who grew up in Dzerzhinsk, the center of the nation's chemical industries 355 kilometers (220 miles) east of Moscow, focused on the city, one of the most polluted in Russia, in his new 'Promzona' art show. (AP PhotoIvan Kochkarev)

In this photo taken on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, visitors attend an exhibition by Russian artist Pavel Otdelnov in Moscow, Russia. Pavel Otdelnov, a Russian artist who grew up in Dzerzhinsk, the center of the nation's chemical industries 355 kilometers (220 miles) east of Moscow, focused on the city, one of the most polluted in Russia, in his new 'Promzona' art show. (AP PhotoIvan Kochkarev)