Fri, 26. February 2016 Albertina Wien

CHAGALL TO MALEVICH

The diversity of the Russian Avant-garde

In Russia, the time between 1910 and 1920 is characterized as an incredibly diverse artistic stage. The trends of the time, which ranged from neo-primitivism and cubo-futurism to suprematism, run parallel to representational expressionism and pure abstraction. The Albertina in Vienna dedicates a comprehensive exhibition with about 130 works by artists like Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Natalia Goncharowa or Alexander Rodchenko to the diversity of this short but dynamic era. The State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg is the main lender of the exhibition.

The Russian Avant-garde is said to be the most radical renewal in the art history of the country and shows the political tensions of the time. With the beginning of the Stalin dictatorship and the preference of a backward-looking style of Socialistic Realism, this phase of passionate emergence ended as fast as it started. From 1932 on, artists’ associations, which did not fit into Socialistic Realism and its strong degree of reality, were closed down and artists were arrested and pursued because of their painting style. In the early 1920 already, Marc Chagall, who was born in Belarus, emigrated to Paris. At the same time, Kandinsky followed a call to the Bauhaus in Weimar.

In eleven halls, the Albertina presents the diversity of Russian Avant-gardes, which in parts are diametrically opposed to each other, but all claim for themselves to promote the renewal of society with their art. All art movements were united in the goal to leave the past behind – whether it was abstraction of suprematism and constructivism, for which El Lissitzky and Alexander Rodchenko are examples, or Marc Chagall’s rather traditional forms of objectivity. These artists all drew form different sources. On one hand, the modern western European Avant-garde of Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso and Braque in Paris was a point of reference, which created revolutionary forms of expression like fauvism and cubism. On the other hand, the Russian artists were influenced by the popular pictorial tradition of their home country.

It was possible that different styles could appear in the work of one and the same artist. The wide gap between the ideological-stylistic directions is, amongst others, reflected in the works of the founder of suprematism. With his famous “Black Square” from 1915, Kazimir Malevich undertook the ‘desperate attempt’ to free art from the weight of things. With this, he committed himself to pure abstraction. With Socialistic Realism, Malevich performed a noticeable change, which devoted itself to the figurative painting and especially peasant scenes as a preferred motif.

The visual confrontation of opposing artistic principles and the visualization of stylistic leaps of isms that take over from each other and engage each other is an important principle of the exhibition, which takes place in the Albertina in Vienna from February 26th to June 26th, 2016. The exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive supporting program that ranges from guided tours and Russendisko to movie presentations about Sergeij Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin”.

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