April 14, 2021

The October Revolution of Russian painting | Culture

The October Revolution of Russian painting | Culture


The road that leads from one artistic revolution to another – or what is the same: from the earthquake in Marc Chagall at Kazimir Malévich– is the one proposed by the Mapfre Foundation, of Madrid, in its new exhibition (until May 5). Between these two poles of powerful attraction, the proposal places artists such as Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova, Lisitski or Ródchenko, who turned the art upside down while history also leapt up in the air about the events of autumn 1917 in Russia.

The revolt begins in the exhibition with one of Marc Chagall's most famous paintings: The walk (1917). In full color, the artist self-portraits himself walking on green roofs and holding a young woman who flies by the hand, his wife, Bella. The fauvist composition is a metaphor for the revolutionary enthusiasm of the time. Nearby awaits a malévich: Lawn mower (1912), painting that is inspired by the volumes of Cézanne to represent everyday life. It has very little to do with another piece of the Russian present in the exhibition, The black square (1923), perhaps the annihilating gesture of painting as a mimetic representation of the most famous sensible world in history. This exploration of the "nothing liberated" was the pursuit of the utopia that led the painter to the realization of a succession of canvases that culminated with The red square (1915), piece with which the artist wanted to identify the Bolshevik promise.

Between the color of Chagall and the total suppression of Malévich travels the route, which has 92 works, signed by 29 artists and loaned by private collectors and public entities such as the Russian State Museum of Saint Petersburg, the Tretyakov State Gallery in Moscow or the State Museum of Nizhny Novgorod. The show has had the collaboration of the Grimaldi Forum Monaco.

A woman observes 'Two Riders and Resting Figure', by Kandisky
A woman observes 'Two Riders and Resting Figure', by Kandisky

The new cultural director of Mapfre, Nadia Arroyo, draws attention to the large number of women (Liubov Popova, Nadiezhda Udaltsova) who participated in this movement, "as in no other period of history," he says. For his part, Jean-Louis Prat, curator of the exhibition and chairman of the Marc Chagall Committee, was convinced yesterday during the presentation to the press that it was not October Revolution the one that forged the avant-garde and modernity, but the artists went ahead of her, although later things did not go as expected. "This misunderstanding gave rise to disappointments that must also be taken into account as important leavenings of abstract language," he said.

Immersed in revolutionary flour, the exhibition delves into one of its most important movements, constructivism, with works that participated in the famous exhibition of 1921, entitled 5 × 5 = 25

Each of the five participants contributed with as many works. They were Popova, Alexandr Vesnín, Alexandra Exter, Ródchenko and Varvara Stepánova. And all of them took the opportunity to proclaim the death of the easel painting and celebrate the arrival of a new era in which what was important was the art of production, of collective impulse and without a trace of individual whims.With the explicit support of Stalin to the new realistic aesthetic, the celebration of experimentation is over.

After 1934, many artists were subjected to unbearable political pressure to adopt the language of socialist realism. Many left; others surrendered to abstract languages ​​to avoid censorship.

The most relevant example of this period is Athletes (1930-1931), by Malévich. Graphic design, essential in this crossroads of revolutionary times, occupies a special place in the journey. The showcases show publications where texts are seen before October. There is visual poetry, calligrams and a lot of humor. After the 17th, Bolshevism ends the party and introduces its more didactic and less experimental perspective. And the gray tone that was believed exiled, returned to prevail on all fronts.

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