1960s UNOFFICIAL ART
NEIZVESTNY Ernst Iosifovich (1925–2016) Face of freedom. 1980. Oil on canvas. 100×80.5
This work by the outstanding sculptor and artist Ernst Neizvestny is titled “Face of freedom”. It was painted in the United States, in the first years after emigration. Where does this reading come from? Why this grimace on the face? Is it disappointment in freedom? It would seem appropriate to recall here that Neizvestny did not consider himself a dissident. He saw the harassment and insults from the political leadership as “local excesses” and a manifestation of the “uncultured” nomenklatura. But Neizvestny had had enough of the totalitarian system. And he knew the price of freedom in every sense. And that, in fact, was why he left. I don't think this is a criticism of freedom. The author's reading refers not only to the tradition of buffoonery. This is a conversation about the cost of upholding ideals. A call to struggle. And a warning that freedom, like truth, is often unpalatable.
SVESHNIKOV Boris Petrovich (1927–1998) Staircase. 1993. Oil on canvas. 70×50
People who see Sveshnikov's painting for the first time often perceive it as an abstraction — a pleasant aesthetic decorative stain on which something can be guessed. But connoisseurs, of course, understand that any painting by Boris Sveshnikov should be read like a book. His plots are a whirlwind of intrigue and layered meanings. Today it seems to you that here is a thriller, but tomorrow you understand that here is a complex detective with an unpredictable ending. And between these discoveries, not a day, not two, but months can pass.
Sveshnikov, as a student, went through Stalin's camps. More than once he was on the verge of death, survived by a miracle. Art was his salvation, a way not to go mad. The horror going on in his soul created a complex imaginary world inhabited by infernal characters. Today it seems obvious that Sveshnikov is a great phenomenon in national art. It is even difficult to imagine that for many years the artist worked into the desk, afraid to even show his paintings.
GROSITSKY Andrey Borisovich (1934–2017) Portieres. 1999. Oil on canvas, mixed media. 90 × 75
An expressive palette, deep texture, and comfortable size is the perfect combination for Andrey Grositsky, the “poet of things”. Also unusual is the choice of the “portrayed” object. Instead of shovels and metal debris, noble portieres are before us. Grositsky is an artist in the orbit of unofficial art. He exhibited at the exhibition of independent art in the House of Culture pavilion at VDNKh in 1975. And after the establishment of the City Committee of Graphic Artists on Malaya Gruzinskaya, he became a regular participant in the City Committee's exhibitions. Today Grositsky is one of the most sought-after artists of the sixties.
The painting “Portieres” participated in solo exhibitions in Moscow in 2000 and 2001, as well as in the exhibition in Dresden, Germany in 2004.
SOKOV Leonid Petrovich (1941–2018) Stalin and Monroe. 1990. Paper, print, gold paint, mixed media. 57 × 78
Last time, his red papier-mâché work with a gold imperial eagle and communist sickle-hammer caused a serious struggle during and after the auction. The works of the 1960s artist Leonid Sokov, even in circulation, are able to cause a sensation at the auction. And here again we have a reason to be sure of that. Before us is a program plot of Sokov — Marilyn and Stalin. Beauty and the Beast. Angel and Demon. This absurdism, the paradoxical juxtaposition of opposites, is a favorite conceptual move of the artist. No wonder he is called a master of postmodern irony.
We mistakenly think that these characters are separated by entire eras. But no. They lived around the same time. Stalin died in 1953. Monroe was about 27 at that time. She began her modeling career in 1944. And by the end of Stalin's life, she had long been a famous actress. And here at Sokov, they suddenly met: they drink, walk, sing songs together. In life, of course, this did not happen. But it could have been. After all, such a plot looks no more fantastic than Lyubov Orlova's meetings with Charlie Chaplin.
KROPIVNITSKY Lev Evgenievich (1922–1994) Dulgen. 1988–1989. Oil on canvas. 124×124
We have not been able to determine reliably who Dulgen is. Probably, it is a deity invented by the artist. The Mongols had a consonant patron of dwellings and pastures Ulgen, but it is surely only a coincidence. The half-woman-half-beast creature is juggling with female heads. Phantasmagorias with amazing erotic characters have been a favorite subject of Lev Kropivnitsky since the late 1980s.
Recall. Lev Kropivnitsky was a Lianozovite, the son of “Grandfather” — Evgeny Kropivnitsky, in whose barracks the Lianozovo group was formed. After the war he was sent to the camps for 10 years for organizing “an attempt on Stalin's life”. And they did not look that the front-line soldier was even after a serious wound. But, as his friends recall, Kropivnitsky did not withdraw into himself after the camp. Until the end of his life he remained an optimist and lover of life. And in his painting it is certainly felt.
YURLOV Valery Ivanovich (1932) Abstraction with yellow and red. 1966. Oil on canvas. 32×40.5
Valery Yurlov is considered by connoisseurs to be one of the main non-object artists in the post-war unofficial art of the USSR. The main finding of the artist remains the concept of “a pair of forms” — two states of the object: “was — became”. But, as you have already noticed, in our geometric composition the author has deviated from the usual construction. Today you are offered a small and bright non-figurative composition of 1966, which will enhance the sturdy collection of the sixties. The date of creation — 1966 — is written on the stretcher. And the signature and date — Yurlov 1986 — appeared on the back of the canvas when the painting was received by the current owner.
LEONOV Pavel Petrovich (1920–2011) Meadow festivities in the village. 1990s. Oil on burlap. 74×103.5
Recognition came to Leonov when he was about 80. It was a stroke of luck. He was noticed by concerned art critics, who had the strength and ability to organize a series of exhibitions and publications. Pavel Leonov is a man of complicated fate. He was in the war, served in camps and colonies, went to work in the North. All his life he felt himself an artist, but was afraid to admit it. He began to study as an artist after fifty. By correspondence, with Mikhail Roginsky. For a long time he hesitated to show and even more so to sell his paintings, he was afraid of being arrested for unearned income. And he was afraid for a good reason. The villagers did not like him, considered him an upstart, an impostor. Well, what kind of artist is this, who, instead of realistic village mud and rickety fences, paints fictional villages with palaces of culture, trams and fountains? Leonov shrugged his shoulders, went out into the yard, pulled up a burlap and created fictional worlds. Life is already not sugar. Why stir it up. Leonov seriously believed that injustice can be corrected. It is only necessary to suggest to the dull-thinking architects and other scientific people how life in the village can be beautifully arranged. Lanterns, fountains, boulevards — and everything would change at once!
BURLIUK David Davidovich (1882–1967) Landscape with cows. Evening. 1951. Canvas on cardboard, oil. 23×30.4
Late American Burliuk, mentally returning to Russia and Ukraine, from where he left half a century ago. Pastose, blottesque painting, bright coloring (possibly an impression from the Fauvists), rustic subject — a decoration of any private collection. The authenticity is confirmed by the expert opinion of Julia Rybakova.
GLUCKMANN Grigory Efimovich (1898–1973) Motherhood. The second third of the twentieth century. Oil on board. 37.7×34
Gluckmann's painting is very labor-intensive. He used a multi-layered technique in the spirit of the Renaissance masters. It took a long time to paint because the previous layer had to dry out. But the output was a deep image glowing from the inside, close to sfumato. The picture was painted in America, where Gluckmann moved from Europe. An artist of the Russian abroad, he was a participant in the Salon des Indépendants and Salon d'Automne in Paris, as well as in numerous gallery exhibitions. After his second opening to the Russian audience, which took place in the 2000s, Gluckmann's prices began to rise rapidly. At the peak of the market, his auction record was over half a million dollars. The authenticity of the painting is confirmed by the expertise of P. M. Tretyakov Independent Art Research & Expertise. The expert — Julia Rybakova.