Drawn from the Private Collection of Yuri Traisman
From the horrific purges of the Stalin era to the time before glasnost when failure to conform could result in loss of employment or imprisonment, Soviet artists have had to struggle at great risk to maintain aesthetic and intellectual freedom. The sweeping cultural reforms presided over by Gorbachev brought an end to decades of censorship, and new intellectual freedoms allowed scholars in and outside of Russia to begin to trace the outlines of a broad category of artistic production known today as nonconformist art. Roughly bounded by the reforms following the death of Stalin in the mid-1950s and a landmark sale at Sotheby’s on July 7, 1988, this period encompasses a vast range of media, styles, and concerns.
Although the term nonconformist is widely used to describe art of the era that rejected political and cultural norms, “nonconformist,” “dissident,” “alternative,” “official”, and “unofficial” all have their place in discussions of the subtle relationship of the artist to the state, to Soviet-era culture, and to other artists. Included are many artists who simply worked on their own outside of the official system, as well as those who were outright political dissidents.
Forbidden Art: The Postwar Russian Avant-Garde is drawn from a highly focused private collection gathered by Yuri Traisman, a Russian émigré who has spent nearly thirty years gathering unofficial as well as émigré art by Russian artists. The range of artists, styles, and movements represented in Forbidden Art offers an extraordinary point of departure for discussions of what is sometimes called the “Second Russian Avant-garde.” Although largely figurative, abstraction, conceptualism, media critiques, and complex forms of realism are revealed as vital pursuits during the period traced by the exhibition. Soviet artists were able to develop avant-garde traditions despite official censorship, and surprising parallels exist between the issues informing the leading practitioners of Western art and those of the most progressive Soviet artists.
Focusing on painting, but also featuring drawings, photographs and sculptures, Forbidden Art includes work by Eric Bulatov, Ilya Kabakov, Grisha Bruskin, Mikhail Chemiakin, Komar and Melamid, Leonid Lamm, Natalia Nesterova, Ernst Neizvestny, Leonid Purygin, Oscar Rabin, Oleg Vasiliev, and many others, providing a crucial interpretive framework by which the exciting field of nonconformist Soviet art can be more thoroughly appreciated and understood.
NUMBER OF WORKS: 77
TOUR DATES: February 1998 - April 2002
PUBLICATION: Publication, Distributed Art Publishers/D.A.P, 1999