Indepth Arts News: |
"Painting Revolution: Kandinsky, Malevich and the Russian Avant-Garde"
2000-04-01 until 2000-07-02
Phoenix Art Museum
USA United States of America
Phoenix Art Museum is proud to present the world premiere of this extraordinary
exhibition, which includes works by 31 Russian artists whose achievements put Russia at
the forefront of contemporary art in the first three decades of the 20th century. The
exhibition celebrates this rich artistic legacy, bringing together from Russia’s state
museums 85 works by Vasilii Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko and
their contemporaries. Many are seen in the United States for the first time in this
exhibition, offering the visitor a unique opportunity to see works that have rarely, if ever,
left Russia. Together they reveal the extraordinary vitality of early 20th century Russian
Internationally acclaimed as pioneers of modern
art, Kandinsky and Malevich were among the
first artists to create abstract art, a style
developing simultaneously throughout Europe.
Around the time of World War I, however, it was
the Russian artists who created a new language
of abstraction - one of pure geometric form in a
minimum of colors. It was called Suprematism,
implying the supremacy of this new art over the
art of the past. It made a huge impact
internationally and largely influenced
subsequent 20th century art, architecture,
design and fashion.
Initially, the efforts of these artists were supported
by the revolutionary government. Various
agencies bought thousands of works by these
artists and distributed them to museums and cities
throughout Russia, quite literally to bring art to the
masses. This was without precedent in Europe
and the United States. Thus the Russian
revolution gave birth to what may be regarded as
the world’s first museums of contemporary art.
After Lenin’s death and Stalin’s subsequent rise to
power, however, many of the museums were
closed and the works stored away, some not seen
again until the recent breakup of the former Soviet
Many Russian painters were profoundly
influenced by the works of their French
contemporaries, especially that of Cézanne,
Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso and Braque. Some
artists lived in Paris for extended periods and a
few studied with French painters before returning
to Russia. At the same time, Russian painters
also were looking for inspiration within their own
artistic and cultural traditions. They incorporated
the stylistic advances they learned from the
French artists into subjects drawn from daily life in
It also was a time when talented women artists
were the full equal of their male counterparts.
Natalia Goncharova, for example, became
interested in the handicrafts and rituals of
peasant life. She frequently painted peasants
carrying out their daily tasks. Goncharova’s
recognition of the vitality and potential of
traditional Russian art, in fact, prompted her
and fellow painter Mikhail Larionov to organize
an exhibition of Icons and Broadsheets in
Moscow in 1913.
Icons, perhaps the best known of all Russian art forms, depict religious subjects and make
ample use of glittering gold backgrounds. Broadsheets were cheaply produced popular
prints known as lubki and were intended to convey simple messages to largely illiterate
audiences. Even commonplace things such as wallpaper, store signs, painted tin trays
and graffiti provided inspiration for Russia’s young artists. It was from this fertile ground
that the Russian avant-garde flourished.
Painting Revolution represents a unique organizational collaboration. It is organized
and circulated in the United States by the Foundation for International Arts and
Education, Bethesda, Maryland in conjunction with The State Russian Museum, St.
Petersburg and ROSIZO of the Russian Ministry of Culture, Moscow and circulated in the
United States by Foundation for International Arts and Education, Bethesda, Maryland, in
cooperation with ROSIZO, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, Moscow.
The works in the exhibition have come from 13 Russian museums. The Arizona showing
is made possible by Miriam and Yefim Sukhman, and the Museums Contemporary Forum.