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"Amazons of the Avant-Garde: Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Varvara Stepanova,"
2000-09-08 until 2001-01-07
Guggenheim Museum
New York, NY, USA

The exhibition focuses on the work of six Russian women who, in the first quarter of the twentieth century, made significant contributions to the development of modern art: Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Varvara Stepanova, and Nadezhda Udaltsova. It will feature more than 70 paintings and works on paper, which have been drawn from more than 30 public and private collections, including 16 Russian regional museums. Many of these works are being shown for the first time in the West. Structured around surveys of each of the artists' discrete but related oeuvres, the exhibition will trace the evolution of modern Russian art.

While the remarkable aesthetic achievements of the early twentieth-century Russian avant-garde have been well-documented in recent years, one essential component still remains to be recognized: the unprecedented number of women artists actively involved in the movement. Never before in the history of Western art had women played so vital a role in the formation of a radical cultural enterprise, one that redefined traditional aesthetic values and remapped age-old divisions between art and life. The six artists featured in this exhibition all shared what one of them, Olga Rozanova, described as a drive to discover wholly new bases of artistic creation. This drive led the artists to develop original, independent modes of working within the fine and applied arts.

The art of the Russian avant-garde flourished from the turn of the century through the mid-1930s and was one of the most vital and prolific chapters in the history of modern art. The range of invention and artistic practices represented by the different movements and schools that emerged under its aegis remains unparalleled today. Russian art of the early twentieth century was informed both by an assimilation of European vanguard ideas such as Dada, Futurism, and Cubism and by indigenous traditions such as folk and primitive art. Moreover, Russian modernism was inherently non-hierarchical, with many artists exploring ideas in painting at the same time they were involved with design for the applied arts, theater, film, fashion, and the graphic arts.

Exter, Goncharova, Popova, Rozanova, Stepanova, and Udaltsova did not necessarily formulate or champion the same social and political ideologies. Just as the Russian avant-garde was a collection of disparate styles and viewpoints, these artists were of different philosophical schools and had different social aspirations and aesthetic convictions. What united them was their support for the idea of cultural renewal and their rejection of what they considered to be outmoded aesthetic canons.

Organization: The exhibition is co-curated by John E. Bowlt, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Matthew Drutt, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Zelfira Tregulova, independent curator, Moscow.

Exhibition Tour: Organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, where it opened to critical acclaim in July 1999, the exhibition will travel to the Royal Academy of Arts, London, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Its final presentation will be at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Publication: The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, edited by John E. Bowlt and Matthew Drutt, and features essays by Natalia Adaskina, Charlotte Douglas, Ekaterina Dyogot, Laura Engelstein, Nina Gurianova, Georgii Kovalenko, Alexander Lavrentiev, Olga Matich, Nicoletta Misler, Vasilii Rakitin, Dmitrii Sarabianov, and Jane Sharp. It will be available in German, English, and Italian.

Funding: The international tour of this exhibition is made possible by Deutsche Bank.

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