A new exposition of the art of the XX and XXI centuries
«XX-XXI: from the twenties to the twenties»
opening on June 25
In Europe, the interwar period was a time of flourishing modernist currents that erupted at the turn of the century – and during the 1920s, Ukrainian art, like Soviet art in general, was actively involved in these processes. Art Deco, avant-garde, cubism, postseasonism, neoclassicism, etc. found their local development in the work of future recognized luminaries of Soviet art, such as Mykola Glushchenko, Anatoly Petritsky, and Mykola Shelyuto. Here we can see the modernist foundations of the work of such iconic artists of the USSR as the founder of the Transcarpathian school of painting Adalbert Erdely and one of the pillars of Russian Soviet art Alexander Deineka.
Unlike Europe, where modernism developed naturally, in Soviet Ukraine the modernist project was brutally curtailed in the 1930s, often by physically destroying its leaders. Dangerous free diversity was destroyed to establish the dominance of a single ideologically acceptable style: socialist realism.
Even Soviet art critics did not dare to call social realism a style: they agreed that it was a “creative method.” This “method”, based on the vitality of the image, monumental format, and ideologically sound theme, consisted of a variety of styles – from post-impressionism and realism of the South Russian school of painting to academism.
In addition to the monstrous size of Leonid Muchnik from Odesa, who works out the local Black Sea Soviet myth, the exhibition features a student work by Tatiana Yablonska from Kyiv, the future author of the program of socialist realism “Bread”, and “Soviet Snyder” by Vasily Yakov. It is noteworthy that Ukrainian artists created a canon of a new “creative method” for the entire USSR: in the late 1920s, the official “court” artist of the time, Isaac Brodsky, created several exemplary images of the first persons, including Lenin and Stalin, according to the canons of the new state art style.
Out of time
Still lives, landscapes, genre scenes – all possible “small” genres, emphasized chamber, emphasized domestic – for many years of domination of the state Soviet art became a haven for artists who preferred to stay away from the service of ideology. Under certain conditions, “private life” within the framework of ideological art was possible; it became a chamber space where, under the guise of socialist realism, echoes of former modernist diversity have been heard for many years (see Interwar Modernism Hall): Kostandi School in Odesa (Vladimir Sinitsky) or Moscow’s Diamond Jack (Peter Konchalovsky, Alexander Osmierkin). Thanks to such artists of this constellation as one of the “Odesa Parisians” Theophile Fraerman, who taught at the Odesa Art School for almost 40 years, the heritage of European art of the first half of the twentieth century was preserved and brought to a new, completely Soviet generation of artists. And in this way, the heritage was preserved to be reconsidered in the future.
«Severe and Stylish»
The name of this hall was given by the so-called “severe style”, which became the hallmark of the thaw of the 1960s and the last attempt at a new stage to return to the romantic origins of the revolution to find almost lost meaning, strength, and inspiration. Simplified forms, dynamic compositions, and open bright colors were partially fueled by the art of the 1920s. No wonder this period in architecture was called “Soviet modernism” – this definition can be applied to the visual arts. The exposition provides an opportunity to compare the works of one of the pillars of the style of Russian Peter Ossovsky and the works of Alexander Atsmanchuk from Odesa, whose “Flight” became the unofficial emblem of OFAM and an icon of the southern version of the strict style.
But the 1960s are a search for all sorts of “pure sources” of inspiration, including modernist romance and folk art (Tatiana Yablonskaya), and a rediscovered Transcarpathian school by Soviet artists, as well as quoting their research in the late 1920s (Mikhail Antonchik).
Out of time and space, out of the then agenda. The main characteristic of the art of the 1970s was removal, and the main artistic technique – was internal emigration. In the space of this emigration, one could meet the former stormy Severeostylist Alexander Freudin, one of the most prominent Odesa artists of the second half of the twentieth century Yuri Egorov, and the refined colorist Lev Mezhberg, who later emigrated. There was also Martiros Saryan’s student Valery Geghamyan, who lived, worked, and taught in Odesa for many years.
Philosophical conversations, a look inside, still lifes frozen in the airless space, group portraits of local heroes who are officially pretended to be nameless “youth” or “unknown” – and the sea, which is exactly out of space and time.
The 1970s - 1990s
The USSR died, independent Ukraine emerged, the “Iron Curtain” fell, and the artistic landscape underwent radical changes. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a significant part of the iconic artistic movements of Ukrainian art, which were formed in the 1990s, was born in Odesa, connected with Odesa, and developed in Odesa. Some of these movements formed in previous decades, and some emerged in the wake of the tectonic political shifts of the 1980s, but in the explosive 1990s, they all coexisted, creating a luxurious and multidimensional picture of artistic life. This hall combines traditionalists, Odesa nonconformism (a name for artists of stylistically very diverse, in fact, underground art movement, the main impulse of which was developed outside the official), Odesa conceptualism (artistic movement closely related to the Moscow conceptual art scene), Odesa transvanguard (a powerful wing of the Ukrainian “new wave of painting”), Ukrainian neo-abstraction (an artistic movement that focused on the search for non-figurative art, cultivating the self-worth of pictorial language).
In the new century, the Ukrainian art scene continues to develop. It is enriched, fragmented, and becoming more complex: its traditional diversity acquires a new quality. Creative and artistic life becomes more atomized and personal. Collective creative groups, trends, and styles have almost disappeared. Instead, each artist creates his world with the help of original artistic language and unique means of artistic expression. We have before us an ensemble of soloists, each of which, at first glance, plays a role, but together they create a symphony of contemporary art of modern Ukraine.