The Russian Academy of Arts Presents...

Ksenya Karpova

Article: 
CURRENT EXHIBITIONS
Magazine issue: 
#4 2008 (21)

Like previous years, 2008 saw a number of fascinating visual art exhibitions - both solo and group shows - at the Russian Academy of Arts on Prechistenka Street in Moscow. This magazine has already covered some that took place during the first half of the year, and in this issue - the final issue for the year 2008 - we review exhibitions that took place between September and December.

From September 16 through 28 the Academy of Arts held a major retrospective exhibition of the famed Moscow painter, an associate member of the Russian Academy of Arts Viktor Razgulin. The show featured works created in different years. Viktor Razgulin’s pictures are in the collections of Russian museums, including the Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum and the museums of Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan and Arkhangelsk.

It is difficult to confidently attribute Razgulin’s works to any single trend or pinpoint the artist’s generic preferences. Essentially, a search for harmony is what the pictures share in common.

And yet, one is led to think that for Razgulin the key genre is landscape, and nature is his focus of observation.

Poetic simplicity and an ornamental colour scheme are what catches the eye in Razgulin’s work. In his unpretentious landscapes, the serenity and lyricism are spell-binding. They fascinate the viewer with a special elegance and unusual harmony. The artist does not so much follow his imagination as look narrowly at reality. Razgulin’s favorite subjects are the scenery of his native town of Gorodets, the landscapes of the old town of Pereslavl-Zalessky, and, of course, Gurzuf, about which Alexander Pushkin so soulfully wrote:

Enchanting region! full of life
Thy hills, thy woods, thy leaping streams,
Ambered and rubied vines, all rife
With pleasure, spot of fairy dreams!
Valleys of verdure, fruits, and flowers,
Cool waterfalls and fragrant bowers!
All serve the traveller’s heart to fill
With joy as he in hour of morn
By his accustomed steed is borne
In safety o’er dell, rock, and hill,
Whilst the rich herbage, bent with dews,
Sparkles and rustles on the ground,
As he his venturous path pursues
Where Ayudag crags surround!

Along with landscape, portraying people against a domestic background is a pivotal genre for the artist. Razgulin’s portraits of his family members — wife and daughter — bespeak the artist’s loving and delicate approach to his task. Those pieces more than others are permeated with an atmosphere of domestic coziness, with the devotion to and love for the family which elevates the tenor of life in this household to the level of the ideal.

The artist often uses the same compositional arrangement. He surrounds his sitters with pieces of furniture and domestic decoration. The repeated images of a bunch of flowers convey a special festive mood and a sublime mindset. Razgulin created in his portraits an inimitable colour scheme where combinations of rose, crimson, scarlet, and vermilion-red hues, with rich infusions of light and dark, highlight a marvellously dynamic colouristic treatment of the sitter. The human figures are harmonized with the background — just like the ambiance, they are permeated with light and air.

Following in the footsteps of the Fauvists, the artists of the “Jack of Diamonds” and “Donkey’s Tail” groups, Razgulin in his art places colour above form. Simplicity of form is the cornerstone of his style. He applies local colours in accurate strips or dots on the canvas. The colours do not overlap but exist autonomously, preserving their singularity within the polyphony of colours.

The artist’s works reveal to viewers his life with all of its joys, troubles and doubts.

Concurrently with Razgulin’s show an exhibition of the full member of the Russian Academy of Arts Boris Fedorov was staged, featuring pastels, glass sculpture and “paintings” on glass which showcased this artist’s distinctive and incontestably unique creative gift.

Fedorov’s art is versatile and unusual. In his works he conveys the aspirations, ideas and impressions generated by reality. Nevertheless, the artist fleshes out his visions in various ways.

Fedorov’s pastel pieces are realistic. His landscapes are marked by an astonishing lyricism. His paintings are refined, elegant and distinguished by a harmonious colour design. And the artist’s glass pieces are a launch pad for experiments. Fedorov captures his impressions of nature with the help of his artistic fantasy and innovative technique, producing work astonishing in its ornamental expressiveness.

Paintings on glass panel display one of the facets of Fedorov’s mentality as an artist. In this medium realistic imagery gives way to abstract sensations and ideas. His conceptual “paintings” on glass compel us to stop and look at them unhurriedly, and provoke associations. Free of any realistic content, these paintings enrich the viewer’s imagination with new impressions. Fedorov’s experimental approach in these works reaches beyond the limits of classic aesthetics, using non-traditional media and techniques which reveal and highlight the emphatic symbolism of the imagery created by the artist.

On the heels of these two exhibitions Yelena Mukhina’s show opened — an interesting exhibition whose name alone is intriguing: “Objects of Love”.

Attitudes to nude paintings have been changing over time, as have the ideals of female beauty. After the Bolshevik revolution artists were producing fewer and fewer works in this genre, and when they did, the pictures had to convey a “correct” ideological message. The languorous young ladies of the 19th century gave way to cabaret dancers, and the dancers, in their turn, were replaced by women athletes of the 1920s-1940s.

Yelena Mukhina has a very special way of imaging her ideal vision of female beauty. The female figures in her works are distinguished by purity, intimacy and spontaneity. She mixes erotic grotesque and naive poetry with an astonishing refinement.

Like many artists from the artistic groups formed at the start of the 20th century, Mukhina uses in her works folk art techniques — her pictures often contain explanatory notes complementing and, in some way, deciphering the meaning of the image.

In spite of the simplified forms and laconic silhouettes the artist in every image very accurately renders peoples’ behaviour, and highlights the expressiveness of poses and faces. In her ornamental compositions colour as the tuner of content is placed above all.

The show featured pieces from the series “Big Nude Paintings”, “Dance”, “Dress Off”, “Motherhood”, “Reading Akhmatova”, and “Aerobics with Cindy Crawford”. Along with numerous nude female images, the pieces on display also included Mukhina’s self-portraits, where she was represented with her dress on but vibrating with an inner sensuality.

An exhibition of the famous Russian painter Eduard Bragovsky, a master of the older generation of the Moscow school of painting, an active member of the Russian Academy of Arts, Honoured Artist of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and winner of the State Prize, which opened in November, was one of the biggest shows. It featured works created in different years, both old and recent pieces. Bragovsky is a highly acclaimed artist. He is one of the founders of the 1960s artistic movement, which changed and defined the course of development of Russian visual art.

Born in 1923 in Tbilisi, his youth coincided with the years of hardships of World War II; in 1943-46 he served in the Soviet Army. Right after the war Bragovsky enrolled at the Vilnius Art Institute, and by 1953 he had already finished the Surikov State Art Institute in Moscow (department of easel art, Professor Kotov’s workshop). After graduation he participated in numerous art exhibitions.

From the very beginning Bragovsky proved himself as an independent artist thanks to his consummate professionalism, brilliant, distinctive talent and original style. The artist has created an individual, original visual style, a distinct imagery and colour design. With his inborn gift for colour, he masterfully creates tonal variations.

Bragovsky has produced numerous portraits of his family, still-lifes, narrative pictures, and views of Tarusa, where he happily spends most of his time. But of course his artistic interests are not limited solely to Tarusa. The painter travelled widely across Russia and internationally, and from every place he visited he brought back sketches and drafts, which he later re-worked into paintings. Bragovsky committed to the canvas the singular charm of the old Russian towns such as Pereslavl-Zalessky, Pskov, Novgorod, and Ferapontovo. He is fond of Russian natural scenery. In his works Bragovsky reveals to the viewer the unmatched beauty of the world around.

Bragovsky usually uses cold tones such as blue, dark blue, green, the finest shades and sparkles of aquamarine colour. However, in spite of the demureness of his colour design, the artist never fails to create a sensation that the surface of the canvas is “alive”. Bragovsky has an exceptional colour talent and an astonishingly finely tuned sensitivity to colour. He is also exceptionally gifted in his drawings which are pieces of art in themselves.

At the age of 85 the artist is full of energy, strength and artistic plans, which he fleshes out in his wonderful works. His works are at the Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum, the majority of the major museums of Russia and the CIS, and at museums in the US, UK, Germany and Spain.

A landmark of modern culture, his art is fascinating, and every solo show of this master becomes a memorable event.

Along with the solo shows, the Academy in November and December mounted two major group exhibitions — “Yevgeny Maximov and His Students” and the 5th exhibition-contest of the Central Federal Region of the Russian Federation.

A member of the Russian Academy of Arts, Yevgeny Maximov is an acknowledged modern muralist. Throughout his artistic career he has been committed to the noble cause of bringing back to life Russian Orthodox churches and renovating their interior decoration. The artist dedicates all his energies and profound knowledge accumulated over many years of practical work to monumental genres, such as mosaics, frescos, panel painting, icons, and murals for churches and public buildings.

The exhibition features pieces executed by Maximov and his creative team: drafts of panel paintings, fragments of murals and mosaics, and icons. The team members include such artists as Igor and Natalya Samolygo, Irina Dvornikova, Larisa Gacheva, Svetlana Vasyutina, Yulia Goryanaya, and Dmitry Repin. A talented teacher and experienced education counselor, Maximov has been mentoring young artists for more than 20 years. He is credited with bringing about a whole trend, a distinct school of modern mural art, which enjoys recognition across the world. The project of bringing back to life the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, where Maximov’s team was trusted with the most critical and difficult tasks, became a milestone in the artist’s career. Especially difficult was a large decorative piece applied to the church’s central dome with a size of 1,137 square meters, the world’s largest. Maximov believes that this work is one of the major achievements in his artistic career. He also worked as a chief artist and designed murals for the St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York.

Not only a monumental artist, Maximov is also an easel painter. He works in a wide variety of genres including historical paintings, portraits, landscapes, and still-lifes.

The exhibition introduces the viewer to a striking and important genre of contemporary visual art, which has an important spiritual and moral significance.

On December 12, Constitution Day, the Central Federal Region’s literature and art prizes for the year 2008 were awarded at a gala ceremony in the Russian Academy of Arts. Established in 2004, the prize is designed to reward the best art works and their authors’ contribution to the nation’s modern culture.

The 5th contest had over 200 contestants from 18 regions of Russia. Varied in genre, the pieces were produced by a variety of artists including both the young and the beginners and acclaimed masters who have major exhibitions behind them and a rich professional experience.

Although the works displayed covered a wide variety of motifs and themes, it is possible to single out prevailing artistic ideas. These include, above all, lyrical landscapes of old Russian towns. The pictures such as Valentin Telegin’s “December” and “Evening in March” presented novel poetic images of Russian natural scenery. These pieces are distinguished by a keen sense of harmony, warm feeling and lyrical soulfulness.

Every artist has a favorite theme which shows up in his work. This is how you can best describe the pictures of Viktor Ivanov, a creator of many genre paintings. Ivanov’s sitters were Russian villagers. His colour scheme is subdued, and he conveys with an astonishing emotional accuracy the characters and moods of his sitters, whose lives, full of hardships, have been a reflection of the nation’s fortunes. The artist’s works are marked by his aspiration to convey the national character, moral beauty and spirituality of the Russian people.

The best portrait pieces included the works of Yevgeny Shcheglov, Alexander Koverin, Mikhail Zautrennikov, Olga Sorokina and Yevgeny Fetisov. One of the main aspirations of these masters is to convincingly portray their models’ states of mind, historical unity and distinctiveness of fortunes. The substantive and artistic richness of our contemporaries, with the shining peaks and tangible achievements, with the joys and misfortunes that fill every individual’s life is reflected in the psychological portraits on display.

Beside the paintings and drawings, the show featured sculptures and applied art. Among the most biilliant pieces marked by depth of artistic vision and originality of imagery, the most noteworthy included the sculptural compositions and portraits of Vladimir Surovtsev, author of several famous sculptural ensembles and monuments. The show featured a model of the monument “Watering Site”, acquired at Sotheby’s in Brussels in 1994, and the author’s version of the bust of Peter I.

Now already a tradition, the exhibition-contests are a testimony to the demanding attention on the part of the government to the masters of contemporary Russian culture.

The exhibition of wonderful artists from St. Petersburg, father and son Grigory and Alexander Yastrebenetsky, is worth special note. The exhibition of a famous sculptor from St. Petersburg Grigory Danilovich Yastrebenetsky marks the master’s 85th birthday. He is the author of over 30 sculptures mounted in Russia and abroad. His largest projects include statues of Vissarion Belinsky, Maxim Gorky and Alexander Radishchev in Penza, the scholar Dmitry Likhachev and the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz in St. Petersburg, chancellors Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt in the German municipality Grevenbroich, and the composer Arthur Rubinstein in Peterhof. Yastrebenetsky created memorable, impressive images of prominent Russian and international cultural figures, such as the writer Daniil Granin, the German poet Heinrich Heine, theatre directors Igor Vladimirov and Nikolai Akimov, actors Kirill Lavrov and Yevgeny Lebedev, and the conductor Yury Temirkanov.

The subject of the Great Patriotic War occupies a special place in the sculptor’s art. Yastrebenetsky designed memorials mounted where Leningrad’s defense line once stood — “Unnumbered Hill” by the Ivanovsky rapids and a monument at the Oreshek fortress near Schlusselburg. He created a memorial for Soviet soldiers killed in the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg (Germany). His works are in the collections of the Tretyakov Gallery, Russian Museum, and many Russian and German museums, as well as those of private collectors in Russia and abroad. He currently directs a sculpture workshop at the Russian Academy of Arts.

Alexander Yastrebinetsky is a graduate of the graphic art department of the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. He has exhibited at more than 100 exhibitions in Russia and abroad. The show features recent graphic pieces — silk prints. The respective series are “St. Petersburg. The Silver Age”, “Archaeology”, and “Four Elements”.

A solo show of the brilliant sculptor and superb graphic artist, a full member of the Russian Academy of Arts, People’s Artist of the Russian Federation Valery Yevdokimov, which took place at the end of the year, is worth a separate review. His monumental and studio sculptures effortlessly and singularly transform the traditions of the academic school and the experience of experimentation in 20th-century European visual art. Yevdokimov’s art is marked by distinct artistry, treatment of space and image, and consummate professional culture. His works are a reflection of the master’s nature, which is refined, sensitive and inspired; they are permeated with an astonishing musical harmony of forms and rhythms, and a sharp expressiveness of the silhouettes and the composition.

Yevdokimov is a versatile artist who has brilliantly proved himself in different genres, both along traditional, classic lines and in non-figurative sculpture. His unique talent enables him to flesh out his artistic visions both as a realist artist and as a conceptual artist. He is a poet and thinker exploring global ethical and spiritual humanitarian problems, rather than transient episodes and prosaic facts. It is no accident that among the large number of portraits created by the sculptor the most outstanding pieces are images of creative personalities such as that of the priest and philosopher Pavel Florensky; the most outstanding compositional pieces include “Svyatoslav Richter’s Concert”, “Cathedral”, “Family”, “Conversation”, and “Alexander Knyazev’s Concert”.

The exhibition displays the varied and, at the same time, extremely consistent art of Valery Yevdokimov, showcasing a sublime craftsmanship and inspiration, and both an exalted unselfishness and artistic self-sacrifice.

Illustrations

Eduard BRAGOVSKY. Birch Tree Grove. 2003
Eduard BRAGOVSKY. Birch Tree Grove. 2008
Oil on canvas
Eduard BRAGOVSKY. Autumn Flowers. 1993
Eduard BRAGOVSKY. Autumn Flowers. 1993
Oil on canvas
Viktor RAZGULIN. Reclining Figure. 2007
Viktor RAZGULIN. Reclining Figure. 2007
Oil on canvas
Boris FEDOROV. Portrait. 2007
Boris FEDOROV. Portrait. 2007
Glass
Yevgeny MAXIMOV. St. George Cathedral, Cyprus. 1991–1995
Yevgeny MAXIMOV. St. George Cathedral, Cyprus. 1991-1995
Fresco
Viktor IVANOV. Sharpening the Scythes. 2008
Viktor IVANOV. Sharpening the Scythes. 2008
Oil on canvas
Grigory YASTREBENETSKY. Portrait of Nikolai Akimov. 1998
Grigory YASTREBENETSKY. Portrait of Nikolai Akimov. 1998
Plaster
Grigory YASTREBENETSKY. Portrait of Igor Vladimirov. 1971
Grigory YASTREBENETSKY. Portrait of Igor Vladimirov. 1971
Ceramics
Alexander YASTREBENETSKY. Series “Archaeology”-2
Alexander YASTREBENETSKY. Series “Archaeology”-2
Silk screen print
Alexander YASTREBENETSKY. Series “Archaeology”-3
Alexander YASTREBENETSKY. Series “Archaeology”-3
Silk screen print
Yelena MUKHINA. Couple. 2006
Yelena MUKHINA. Couple. 2006
Oil on canvas
Yelena MUKHINA. Seated Nude. 2006
Yelena MUKHINA. Seated Nude. 2006
Oil on canvas
Valery YEVDOKIMOV. Pavel Florensky. 2008
Valery YEVDOKIMOV. Pavel Florensky. 2008
Bronze
Valery YEVDOKIMOV. Duet. Mikhail Voskresensky and Alexander Knyazev. 2000
Valery YEVDOKIMOV. Duet. Mikhail Voskresensky and Alexander Knyazev. 2000
Bronze

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