Lives of the Artists XXVIII

In the 1930s, Russian-born sculptor Naum Gabo started experimenting with a thin, plastic material called celluloid. Previously used as film for photography or to make cheap jewelry, celluloid in Gabo’s hands became translucent geometric structures that were often suspended in mid-air. Art critic Herbert Read wrote that Gabo was using “new materials…[for] a new generation to create with them the monuments of a new civilization.” His pieces made their way into the top art collections in the world.

But by 1960, the plastic had begun to warp and crack. Gabo didn’t know it when he started using celluloid, but it is an extremely unstable and reactive material, and was infamous for catching fire in movie theaters. Despite conservators’ diligence to try to preserve his works, the plastic became too brittle and the sculptures collapsed. Gabo himself called many of them irreparable.

Alexandra Ossola, “How to Make Art That Withstands the Test of Time” in Nautilus, March 24, 2015.

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Sacha Zaliouk

Self-portrait. (1915).

Self-portrait. (1915).

Alexander Davidovich Zaliouk (1887 – 1971) was a Jewish artist, illustrator and sculptor, a member of the École de Paris, and a doyen of the Art Deco. He was born in an impoverished family in Radomysl, Ukraine, and studied at art schools in St Petersburg and Odessa. His early career involved illustrative work for magazines such as Krokodil (1911-12), Southern Weekly (1912-13), and the newspaper Southern Thought (1911). He signed his works Sacha, or Sach or AZ. He participated in exhibitions of the Association of Southern Russian artists in Odessa (1908-12).

In 1912, Sacha moved to Paris and settled in Montparnasse. He continued his education at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, training under Raphaël Collin and François Flameng. In 1914, he enlisted in the French army and fought at Verdun.

In 1919, he attracted attention with his portraits of literary figures, actors and other celebrities. He also created a series of sculptures. Besides portraits, he painted landscapes and generic compositions; nudes; carried out a series of erotic graphic art; created book illustrations. In 1920 he participated in the satirical magazines La Vie Parisienne, Fantasio, La Sourire, Le Journal Amusant, Paris-plaisirs.

Illustration in Fantasie.

Illustration in Fantasio.

In 1921, he participated in the First Russian Exhibition of Arts and Craft at London’s Whitechapel Gallery. He also took part in the Salon d’Automne (1926) as well as the Society of Artists’ La Horde de Montparnasse (1927).

The Lovers.

The Lovers.

Zaliouk became a member of the Salon des Independants in 1951, and of the Parisian salon of the National Union of Arts in 1954.

Untitled.

Untitled.

Nude and pipes.

Nude and pipes.

Beauties by the mast.

Beauties by the mast.

Surrealist composition.

Surrealist composition.

Two nudes.

Two nudes.

The painter and the model. (1929).

The painter and the model. (1929).

The painter and the model. (1923).

The painter and the model. (1923).

(Text from ЗАЛЮК (Цалюк) Александр (Саша) Давидович, at the Art and Architecture of the Russian Diaspora.)

Art Roundup – December 2014

Nearly the end of the year, folks, and time for yet another roundup of Russian and related art.

  1. In the Museum of Russian Icons, Moscow, there is an exhibition of the works of priestly artist and missionary Alexander Men’. It runs till December 16.
  2. At the Yasnaya Polyana Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy is an exhibition “The Unknown Mashkov“, which runs till December 9.
  3. In Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Oil Painting is an exhibition of the works from the Melnikov School in the Repin Academy of Fine Arts. Titled “The Distant Transparent“, this continues till December 15.
  4. Barcelona’s La Pedrera hosts an exhibition of the constructivist Lazar (El) Lissitzky. Titled “El Lissitzky. The Experience of Totality“, it ends Jan 18, 2015.
  5. Till December 7 at the Museum of Russian Art, Jersey City, NJ, is an exhibition of the Ukrainian circus artiste and artist Irene Koval.
  6. If you are interested in contemporary works of art from Central Asia, a good place to see what’s happening is the ENE Central Asian Art site. Ene means ‘mother’ in Turkmen and it is a Singapore-based organisation. Check out their gallery here.
  7. And there is an exhibition of Armenian dolls in Yerevan – traditional or French-inspired or Soviet-approved – you can find quite a collection. At the Yerevan Historical Museum, this runs to the end of the year.
  8. Georgian art flowered in the 1950s after the death of Stalin, and the works of Kalandadze, Nizharadze, Bandzeladze, Tsutskiridze and others can be seen at the Georgian National Museum‘s exhibition “Post-Stalin Liberalisation in Georgian Painting“, running in Tbilisi.
  9. If we do Armenian and Georgian, then surely we must do Azerbaijani as well – equal favour to these historic rivals, I say! Baku’s Museum of Modern Art has an exhibition titled “Stone”, featuring the sculptures of the Azerbaijani artist Huseyn Hagverdi.

And that’s it for the roundups of the year!

Avant-Garde Outing Continued Again

(Text below is from the St Petersburg Gallery’s exhibition notes for Russian Revolution in Art, Russian Avant-Garde: 1910 – 1932, running in London till September 20, 2014.)

Vyacheslav Levkievsky’s painting Tramway was displayed in the 1914 exhibition N°4, a show that (Mikhail) Larionov described as uniting artists that were ‘not in any way related to each other apart from their youth, their forward-looking vision and their problem-solving approach in the realm of painting while nevertheless being like-minded in their thoughts and feelings’.

Woman with guitar.

Woman with mandolin, by Vladimir Burliuk. (1913).

Vyacheslav Levkievsky.

Tramway, by Vyacheslav Levkievsky. (1914).

Self-portrait, by Yuri Annenkov. (1960).

Self-portrait, by Yuri Annenkov. (1960).

Sketch for the painting "Battle", by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1913).

Sketch for the painting “Battle”, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1913).

Three designs of book cover "Evreinov, Kamensky, Lentulov", by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1914).

Three designs of book cover “Evreinov, Kamensky, Lentulov”, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1914).

The Fool's Ball, by Jean Pougni. (1915-16)

The Fool’s Ball, by Jean Pougni. (1915-16)

Design, by Gustav Klutsis. (1922).

Design, by Gustav Klutsis. (1922).

Sun, by Mikhail Matyushin. (1921).

Sun, by Mikhail Matyushin. (1921).

Yusupov Palace on the Moika 5

Yusupov Palace on the Moika is an indispensable item on any tourist program in St. Petersburg. There are almost thirty rooms with dazzling interiors, the finest furniture from different eras, a showcase of the lives of the pre-revolutionary Russian bourgeoisie. The palace was begun in 1770 for Count Andrei Shuvalov, but first wooden mansions for the princess Praskovya (niece of Peter I) were built on the site soon after the founding of the city. Five generations of the Yusupovs lived in the palace from 1830 to 1917. It was the jewel in the necklace of 57 palaces owned by the Yusupov clan. Rasputin was murdered in the basement of the palace in 1916. From 1925, the palace has served as a cultural centre for educators.

This has been translated from Deletant’s article Музей роскоши.

45. In the Dance Hall, there is an extraordinary chandelier.

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46. The Nikolayev Hall hosts part of the Yusupov Picture Gallery.

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47. A bust of Count Yusupov.

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48. The Hall of Valuables.

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56.

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49.

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50.

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51. Long Antique hall with red walls and marble sculptures.

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53. Short corridor.

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55.

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57.

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Soviet Sport, Soviet Art

As I mentioned in my monthly roundup, Sotheby’s are holding a brief exhibition on soviet realist portrayals of the sports. The boy and I went over there yesterday and took a look. We also wielded our cameras to great effect as you can see below.

One good thing about Sotheby’s is that their exhibition catalogues are generally free, so when we left, we grabbed one. All of the information in the captions is from the exhibit notes.

Oarswoman, by Mikhail Sokolov.

Mikhail Sokolov was a member of the Miriskusstvo (“World of Art”) movement in the 1910s, and followed that with cubist styles. During his exile in the 1930s, he became interested in dramatic works of realism; the Oarswoman is one of his best. Unusually, he doesn’t portray her at her moment of triumph; rather, this is the post-race, exhausted face of the winner. The painting reveals her humanity and reality, rather than abstractions of victory and achievement.

At the start, by Kirill Kustodiyev. (1933).

A parachute jump, by Georgy Nissky. (1930s).

A parachute jump, by Georgy Nissky. (1930s).

Judoists, by Oleg Ponomarenko. (1979).

Judoists, by Oleg Ponomarenko. (1979).

Gymnastics Lessons, by Nikolay Kotov. (1930s-1950s).

Gymnastics Lessons, by Nikolai Kotov. (1930s-1950s).

A skating rink, by Viktor Popkov. (1966-69).

A skating rink, by Viktor Popkov. (1966-69).

Playing billiards in Ulanovo, by Viktor Popkov. (1974).

Playing billiards in Ulanovo, by Viktor Popkov. (1974).

Volleyball, by Viktor Popkov. (1968).

Volleyball, by Viktor Popkov. (1968).

Waverunner, by Vladimir Kutilin. (1959).

Waverunner, by Vladimir Kutilin. (1959).

Vladimir Kutilin’s Waverunner is one of his earlier works, painted soon after his studies completed at Surikov Art Institute. It was inspired by increasing popularity of the sport (invented in the US in 1922) in the USSR. This work highlights the ambition and energy of the Soviet youth, and also points out the increasing appreciation among common citizens of the healthful benefits of sport.

Marathon, by Mikhail Pereyaslavets. (1980).

Marathon, by Mikhail Pereyaslavets. (1980).

The skiers, by Anatoly Nikich. (1950s).

The skiers, by Anatoly Nikich. (1950s).

The skiers, Anatoly Talalayev. (1961).

The skiers, Anatoly Talalayev. (1961).

In a sports hall, by Olga Vaulina. (1930s).

In a sports hall, by Olga Vaulina. (1930s).

Aeromodeller, by Olga Vaulina. (1930s).

Aeromodeller, by Olga Vaulina. (1930s).

Aeromodelling was a popular sport in the 1920s and 1930s, especially driven by the Soviet preoccupation with the conquest of the skies. Schoolchildren in particular formed aeromodelling clubs in which to pursue their interests in aircraft development. Olga Vaulina depicts the sky bound ambitions of the boy with the contrasting placement of his hand on the globe of the earth.

Art Roundup – November 2013

It’s the Hindu festival of lights today, folks. Happy Diwali!

And here’s a quick roundup of this month’s fun.

  1. At the New Hall Art Collection in Cambridge, England, there is an exhibition of Contemporary Russian Women Artists. It runs till November 30, 2013.
  2. In Dubai‘s Cuadro Fine Arts Gallery is an exploration of the condition of women, Out of Body, in the paintings and sculptures of Aidan Salakhova, an Uzbek/Azerbaijani artist. This runs till November 7, 2013.
  3. Boris Chetkov’s works are on display this month (November 22-24, 2013) as part of the Russian Art Week at the Westbury Hotel in London.
  4. Here’s advance warning of an exhibition of Viktor Popkov’s art at the Somerset House in London in May 2014. If you can’t wait that long, there’s a book about him Viktor Popkov: A Russian Painter of Genius recently published. Huzzah!
  5. And, if you really want to check out some of the finest lifetime collections of Russian art, you could do worse than to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and sate your senses at the Pushkin Gallery.

Marcos Grigorian

Marcos Grigorian (born Kropotkin, Russia, 1925; died Yerevan, Armenia, 2007) was an Iranian-Armenian sculptor, painter, carpet weaver and installation artist. He was educated in Rome, worked in New York, acted as a villain and anti-hero in several Iranian films, and was a teacher of art in Teheran, one of the founders of Iranian modernism. 1

One of his earliest ground-breaking works was a cycle of murals on the theme of the Holocaust. These were a dozen panels 6 x 10 feet.

Holocaust series (1957-59).

Holocaust series (1957-59).

At the same time, he began adding earth to his artworks, a process that resulted in the Earthworks series, to focus on using earthen materials to symbolise man’s transient nature on earth. 2

New Birth. (1970).

New Birth. (1970).

Dry Farm. (1977).

Dry Farm. (1977).

He also began to experiment with the age-old tradition of carpet weaving, introducing an avant-garde design to its elements.

Ara and Shamiramis Uraptu. (Designed 1957, woven 1987).

Ara and Shamiramis Uraptu. (Designed 1957, woven 1987).

In 1970, Grigorian joined the faculty of art at the Teheran University, where he began to instruct young Iranians in the principles and philosophies of modern art. He himself had experimented in multiple styles (figurative and abstract) and media (as we’ve seen above, graphic, fabric, and installation), but he inculcated in his students a love and appreciation for traditional and folk art and their possibilities in the modern. On the other hand, his abstractions remained novel, especially for Iranian audiences, as he incorporated bread, baskets, straw and earth into his paintings. 3

References

  1. Hengameh Fouladvand, “Marcos Grigorian“, Encyclopedia Iranica, 2012.
  2. Marcos Grigorian, Earthworks (Exhibition catalogue), p. 128, Gorky Gallery, 1989.
  3. Staci G. Scheiwiller (ed.), Performing the Iranian State: Visual Culture and Representations of Iranian Identity, Anthem Press, 2013., p. 104.

Lives of the Artists XIX

There’s a couple of stories about the avant-garde sculptor Nadezhda Krandiyevskaya (1891-1963). When she was learning draughtsmanship and painting at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, her favourite teacher was the sculptor Sergei Volnukhin. He instilled in her discipline and single-minded focus as the hallmarks of the true artist. Art, he said, was a matter for all of life, requiring complete immersion and all of one’s strength. One of Krandiyevskaya’s classmates was the (future) poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. He was quite infatuated with her, and always sat in front of her in drawing class, often turning around to gaze soulfully into her eyes, embarrassing her considerably. But she managed not to be distracted – Volnukhin’s training of concentration obviously stood her in good stead. Mayakovsky was hardly discouraged by this. He would take her after school on long walks. One day she injured her leg. Gallantly, he carried her in his arms all the way back home.

In 1912, Krandiyevskaya went to Paris to train under the French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. The students here were expected to work independently and present their pieces to the maestro, who would attend to them every week and offer his suggestions and comments, and educating them in his own artistic principles. One day, sculpting from nature, Krandiyevskaya produced a piece that elicited general admiration. She knew that it has been good fortune rather than intention. Bourdelle himself was sceptical. ‘This is already art’, he declared, as though in praise. Then he added, ‘But now let us begin.’ And he started to re-do the piece in his own style. For Krandiyevskaya, it was agony: she thought the life was draining away from her piece under her teacher’s ministrations. She fainted and was taken to hospital, where she was told she had suffered from deep psychological shock. Too timid to express her opinion in front of Bourdelle, whom she idolised, equally she realised that her own hard-won path was considerably divergent from his.

Nonconformists 1

Nonconformists, or unofficial Soviet art was an often paradoxical mirror onto the spiritual, psychological and social situation of the Soviet Union between 1960-80. Here’s a brief set of examples of the genre, taken from Diletant.ru, September 15.

Man with watch glass, by Alexander Kharitonov. (1962).

Vladimir Nabokov, by Otari Kandaurov. (1975).

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, by Otari Kandaurov. (1973).

Roses and thistles, by Valentina Kropivnitskaya. (1981).

Heart of Christ, by Ernst Neizvestny. (1973-75).

Don Quixote, by Vladimir Ovchinnikov. (1979).

Violin in a cemetery, by Oskar Rabin. (1969).

Adam and Eve, by Vasily Sitnikov. (1967).

Red egg, by Ülo Sooster. (1964).

Guardian angel, by Vladimir Titov. (1992).

Memorial service, by Boris Sveshnikov. (1966).