«Severe and Stylish»

13.03.2020 – 22.05.2020

«Severe and Stylish»
The art of the long sixties

Important: start the tour to the left of the exhibition poster, zlotskvise

The new exhibition project logically continues the exhibition “Exhumation” (2018-2019), which introduced the audience to the art of socialist realism from the collection of the Odesa Fine Arts Museum.

The “Exhumation” ended with a kind of exit from socialist realism into the “art of thaw”, with its rejection of the ideological and aesthetic dogmas of the Stalin era. They were replaced by the so-called “trifle” (Abraham Wexler’s “Slanderer”, “Experts” by Hryhoriy Shpolyansky), rehabilitation of everyday and everyday life (“Tanya, don’t blink!” By Mykhailo Bozhiy), degeneration of character, which ceases to be an atomic carrier of the team of heroism and is revealed through private experience (female portraits of Sergei Ivanov, Alexander Atsmanchuk, Yuriy Egorov). The “art of thawing” contrasts the austerity of the “builder of the ideal world” with the human right to personal happiness, which in the Stalinist era was considered “bourgeoisie”. It became a transitional episode from Stalin’s socialist realism to the “strict style” (Alexander Kamensky’s term), which became the dominant trend in Soviet art in the 1960s.

A new generation of artists tried to rethink reality. Socialist realism was officially declared “not a style, but a method”, which opened space for research in the field of artistic skill, and formal innovations, and legitimized a return to the interrupted traditions of modernism and avant-garde – both domestic and foreign.

In modern times, these artists have not seen the prosperity that has already taken place (see project “Exhumation”), and the process of realization, which requires from the hero a picture of courage and stubbornness, and from the artist – an image of the reality of the present in its harsh romance, where the energy of time is expressed through the habit of the unusual. Instead of the usual ideal of a complex artistic image, artists preferred conciseness and concentration, composition unfolded forward to the viewer, the importance of foreground large forms, expressive graphic silhouette, and large colored planes. Artists often turn to the sculpting of volume with the help of color, to the dense mass of paint, the Cezanne traditions of the “Jack of Diamonds”, the techniques of monumental art. Ideal-futurological artistic reality is replaced by demanding judgments about the reality of today.

“Early – heroic – “severe style” is fundamentally opposed to the world of happy serenity, strength, and beauty as a system of conscious purposeful “lies”, which created Stalin’s art (and ended it with the art of “thaw”). Therefore, the cult of “severe” – that is, devoid of any illusions, uncompromising and ruthless – “truth” about man, history and even nature (desert and gloomy nature of “severe style” has nothing to do with the sunny idyll of the mid-50s). No miracles – just work”.

Alexey Bobrikov


Gradually, the plot action, which determines the content and reveals the character of the hero, changes to the eventless principle of composition. The image of the picture is formed by the state of the environment and the characters. Painting tends to have static and plastic integrity of form. The narrative artistic course is changing, and the effect of the historical atmosphere, and the emotional tone of the era prevails. The new movement is presented at the exhibition by the late works of the founders of “severe style”: Viktor Ivanov, Petro Osovsky, Mykola Andronov, and those close to them, but those who moved their way, Andrei Mylnikov, Dmitry Zhilinsky, Anatoly Nikich.

In the 1960s, interest in national artistic traditions grew markedly. In this regard, for example, Ukrainian masters returned to the pictorial practice of the first wave of national revival of the 1920s and 1930s (see exhibition “Special Fund”), as well as inspired by folk art. In this way, the taste for primitives develops. The Ukrainian “severe style” at the exhibition is represented by the works of Tatiana Yablonska with her folklore motifs, in the work of Mykhailo Antonchyk “My teachers Eleva and Petrytsky”, which declares succession about the experience of the Ukrainian avant-garde and Boychukism. Echoes of “severe style” are found in the paintings of Galyna Neledva and Zoya Lerman.
More than half of the names presented at the exhibition are masters of Odesa painting. Unlike most of Moscow’s “stylists”, who can be said to be “artists without Paradise”, Odesans sought and found their local Paradise in childhood impressions and emotions of youth, in stroke and color, and most importantly – in a dazzling sparkling sea. They attempted a new reading of the coloristic and poetic heritage of the South Russian school, as well as the experience of the Odesa “Independents”, about whom very little was known at the time. Most vividly, these tendencies were manifested in the works of Oleksandr Atsmanchuk, Yuriy Egorov, Vyacheslav Tokarev, Volodymyr Vlasov, Oleksiy Popov, Mykhailo Todorov, as well as their immediate successors – Sviatoslav Bozhiy, Orest Sleshynsky, Adolf Loza and others. It is for Odesa artists of the 60’s that we propose a new definition – “severe and stylish”, emphasizing their commonality and difference with the mainstream of that time.

The exhibition traces the development of the “severe style” – from 1956, when the cult of Stalin’s personality was debunked, to the mid-1970s, the stagnant Brezhnev era. In the 1970s, there was no longer a common Soviet Ukrainian art – there are many isolated cases. And the nonconformism that emerged during these years is either a way out of the “severe style” or its consequence.

The artistic search for Odesa’s “severe and stylish” became the starting point and gave impulse to the next generation of artists, including future nonconformists. Therefore, at this exhibition, we also decided to show the early works of Lyudmila Yastreb, Viktor Maryniuk, Valery Basants, Vladimir Strelnikov, Valentin Khrushch, Moses Chereshnya, Lucien Dulfan, and Yuri Kovalenko.

These artists later opened a new page in Odesa art. That is why, before we talk about modernity, we must show what stood before this modernity.

The exhibition was organized with the support of Odesa Mayor Gennady Trukhanov


The exhibition features works from the collection of the Odesa Fine Arts Museum, the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Odesa, and the Odesa Art College. M.B. Grekov, as well as from the collections of the Vernik families, the Vyrodov-Wilstein families, the Mikhailov-Bozhiy families, the Muzalyov families, the Shevchuk families, the Shcherbina families, and Valery Basants, Anatoliy Hankevych, Viktor Maryniuk, Oleksandr Roytburd, and Oleksandr Shevchuk collections.