Soviet Nonconformist Art

The term Soviet Nonconformist Art refers to Soviet art produced in the former Soviet Union from 1953 to 1986 (after the death of Joseph Stalin until the advent of Perestroika and Glasnost) outside of the rubric of Socialist Realism. Other terms used to refer to this phenomenon are "underground art" or "unofficial art" (ru). Also, if to use the term "Russian avant-garde" in art, the "First wave of Russian avant-garde" was in 1910s-1930s, than this period in art is called the "Second wave of Russian avant-garde" (ru) (1960s-1980s).



From the time of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 until 1932, the historical Russian avant-garde flourished and strove to appeal to the proletariat. However, in 1932 Stalin's government took control of the arts with the publication of "On the Reconstruction of Literary-Artistic Organizations"; a decree that put artists' unions under the control of the Communist Party. Two years later, Stalin instituted a policy that unified aesthetic and ideological objectives, which was called Socialist Realism, broadly defined as art that was, "socialist in content and realist in form." Moreover, the new policy defined four categories of unacceptable art: political art, religious art, erotic art, and "formalistic" art, which included abstraction, expressionism, and conceptual art. Beginning in 1936, avant-garde artists who were unable or unwilling to adapt to the new policy were forced out of their positions, and often either murdered or sent to the gulag, as part of Stalin's Great Purges.[1] Vladimir Sterligov, a student of Kazimir Malevich, along with two of his own students, Alexander Baturin and Oleg Kartashov, as well as Vera Ermolaeva and her students Marusya Kazanskaya and Pavel Basmanov were arrested in December, 1934 and taken by train to Kazakhstan. Sterligov spent five years in prison outside Karaganda, while Ermolaeva disappeared forever. Sterligov's student, Alexander Baturin, spent a total of 32 years in prison.

End of World War II – 1953

In the wake of World War II, referred to in Russia as The Great Patriotic War, Party resolutions were passed in 1946 and 1948, by Andrei Zhdanov, chief of the Propaganda Administration formally denouncing Western cultural influences at the start of the Cold War. Art students such as Ülo Sooster, an Estonian who later became important to the Moscow nonconformist movement, were sent to Siberian prison camps.[2] The nonconformist artist Boris Sveshnikov also spent time in a Soviet labor camp.[3] Oleg Tselkov was expelled from art school for 'formalism' in 1955, which from the viewpoint of the Party might have constituted an act of treason.[4]

1953 (the death of Stalin) – 1962

The death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, and Nikita Khrushchev's subsequent denunciation of his rule during his Secret Speech at the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956 created a "thaw"; a liberal atmosphere wherein artists had more freedom to create nonsanctioned work without fearing repercussions. Furthermore, Stalin's cult of personality was recognized as detrimental, and within weeks many paintings and busts bearing his likeness were removed from public places. Artists such as Aleksandr Gerasimov, who had made their careers painting idealized portraits of Stalin, were forced out of their official positions, as they had become embarrassing to the new leadership.[5] However, despite increased tolerance, the parameters of Socialist Realism still hadn't changed, and therefore, artists still had to tread lightly.

1962 – mid-1970s

The "thaw" era ended quickly, when in 1962, Khrushchev attended the public Manezh exhibition at which several nonconformist artists were exhibiting, including Ulo Sooster with his Eye in the Egg. Khrushchev got into a public and now-famous argument with Ernst Neizvestny, sculptor (ru) (1925-2016), regarding the function of art in society. However, this altercation had the unintended effect of fomenting unofficial art as a movement. Artists could no longer hold delusions that the state would recognize their art, yet the climate had become friendly and open enough that a coherent organization had formed. Additionally, punishments for unofficial artists became less severe; they were denied admittance to the union instead of being executed.

As a "movement" nonconformist art was stylistically diverse. However, in the post-thaw era its function and role in society became clear. As the eminent Russian curator, author and museum director Joseph Bakstein writes,

The duality of life in which the official perception of everyday reality is independent of the reality of the imagination leads to a situation where art plays a special role in society. In any culture, art is a special reality, but in the Soviet Union, art was doubly real precisely because it had no relation to reality. It was a higher reality.... The goal of nonconformism in art was to challenge the status of official artistic reality, to question it, to treat it with irony. Yet that was the one unacceptable thing. All of Soviet society rested on orthodoxy, and nonconformism was its enemy. That is why even the conditional and partial legalization of nonconformism in the mid-1970s was the beginning of the end of the Soviet regime.


Late 1970s – 1991s

In the mid-1980s, Glasnost and Perestroika were the policies that led to the demise of the USSR in 1991. The nonconformist movement, deprived of a host body, suffered demise as well. However, two other factors sealed the fate of nonconformism. The first was the 1988 auction of modern and contemporary Russian art in Moscow by Sotheby's. The auction was only open to foreigners who could pay in British Pounds, which signified the economic fragility of the Soviet Union, the end of its xenophobia, and the beginning of the forces of capitalism that control the art market. The second factor was diaspora - many artists had already emigrated, beginning as early as the late-1970s and continuing throughout the 1980s.

Among Moscow Artists who emigrated at that time are:

  • To Israel: 1972 Vladimir Grigorovich (b. 1939), and in 1974 moved to USA.
  • To France: 1975 Lidia Masterkova (ru) (1927-2008); 1975 Valentin Vorobyov (b. 1938) to Paris; 1978 Oscar Rabin (ru) (b. 1928); 1978 Valentina Kropivnitskaya (ru) (1924-2008);

Among Leningrad Artists (now St. Petersburg) who emigrated at that time are:

  • To Israel: 1976 Evgeny Abezgauz (Eugene Abeshaus) (1939-2008); 1976 Tatiana Kornfeld (b. 1950); 1976 Yuri Kalendarev, sculptor (b. 1947), who in 1979 moved to Tuscany, Italy; 1977 Sima Ostrovsky (1938-1995); 1979 Anatoly Basin (ru) (b. 1936), who lived first in Paris, France, Vienna, Austria, before moving to Jerusalem, Israel, and in August 2017 moved to Rehovot, Israel. From 1994 he lives in both countries, Israel, and St. Petersburg, Russia; 1979 Alexander Okun (ru) (b. 1949); 1993 Alexander Gurevich (b. 1944);
  • To USA: 1974 Alexander Ney (b. 1939), sculptor, to New York; 1975 Konstantyn K. Kuzminsky (ru), poet (1940-2015); 1976 Alek Rapoport (ru) (1933-1997) emigrated from Leningrad, and in 1977 moved to USA; 1976 Igor Sinyavin (1937-2000), who lived in Moscow from 1987, but died in N.Y., USA; 1977 Natalia Toreeva (b. 1941) to Chicago, Illinois; 1977 Yury Galetsky (b. 1944) to N.Y., and in 1987 returned back to Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Russia; 1978 Vadim Filimonov (ru) (b. 1947), who was forced to emigrate from USSR. In 1979 he moved to USA, and from 1985 lives and works in Germany; 1980 Evgeny Goryunov (1944-1994), who moved after 2 years to Europe, lived in Austria, Italy, and later in Paris, France, and in 1989 returned to Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Russia; 1989 Yuri Dyshlenko (ru) (1936-1995), who died from lung cancer in N.Y., USA;
  • To France: 1971 Mikhail Chemiakin (ru) (b. 1943) was exiled from the Soviet Union to Paris, France, then moved in 1981 to New York, the United States, and in 2007 he returned to France, where he currently resides; 1977 Alexander Arefiev (ru) (1931-1978) to Paris, where he died soon in 1978; 1977 Yuri Zharkikh (ru) (b. 1938) emigrated to Germany, and in 1978 he moved to Paris, France, where he lives and works now; Valentin Afanasiev (ru), painter and musician (b. 1945).
  • To Germany: 1978 Igor Sacharow-Ross (Sacharov-Ross, Zakharov-Ross) (b. 1947) was exiled from the Soviet Union to Germany, where he currently resides.

Contributors to the movement

Notable Soviet Nonconformist artists of so-called "The Second wave of Russian avant-garde" [[ ]] include:

From Moscow: Ernst Neizvestny, sculptor (ru) (1925-2016), Oscar Rabin (ru) (b. 1928), Vladimir Yankilevsky (ru) (1938-2018), Ilya Kabakov (ru) (b. 1933), Oleg Vassiliev (ru) (1931-2013), Erik Bulatov (ru) (b. 1933), Komar and Melamid [[ ]], [[ ]], Mikhail Koulakov (ru) (1933-2015), Leonid Sokov (ru) (1941-2018), Viktor Pivovarov, Ülo Sooster, Boris Sveshnikov, Vladimir Yakovlev [[ ]] (1934-1998), Anatoly Zverev [[ ]] (1931-1986), Dmitri Plavinsky (1937-2012), Lidiya Masterkova (ru) (1927-2008), Vladimir Nemukhin [[ ]] (1925-2016), Eduard Steinberg, Igor Novikov, Michail Grobman, Lev Kropivnitsky [[ ]] (1922-1994), Valentina Kropivnitskaya (ru) (1924-2008), Mikhail Odnoralov, Oleg Tselkov, Alexander Yulikov [[ ]] (b. 1943), Andrey Grositsky [[ ]] (1934-2017),[7] Vasily Sitnikov, Dmitry Krasnopevtsev [[ ]] (1925-1995), Leonid Lamm, Igor Shelkovsky, and others.

From St. Petersburg (Leningrad): Yuri Dyshlenko (ru) (1936-1995), Evgeny Rukhin (ru) (1943-1976), Aleksandr Arefiev (ru) (1931-1978), Alek Rapoport (ru) (1933-1997), Timur Novikov (1958-2002), Anatoly Basin (ru) (b. 1936), Anatoly Belkin (ru) (b. 1953), Yuri Zharkikh (ru) (b. 1938),[8] Alexei Khvostenko (1940-2004), Valery Klever, Yuri Gourov, Alexander Ney (b. 1939), Vladimir Lisunov (1940-2000), Igor V. Ivanov (1934-2017), Natalia Toreeva (b. 1941), Evgeny Goryunov (1944-1994), and others.

From Siberia: Edward Zelenin (1938-2002) (fr:Edouard Zelenine).

Moscow Artists' Groups

There were many artistic groups and movements that were active in the Soviet Union after the period of the thaw. They can be difficult to classify because often they were not related due to stylistic objectives, but geographical proximity. Furthermore, participation in these groups was fluid as the community of nonconformist artists in Moscow was relatively small and close-knit.

Lianozovo Group

One of the most rebellious groups to emerge from this period is called Lianozovo group or school (ru:Лианозовская школа), creative association of poets and artists, after the small village Lianozovo outside Moscow, where most of the artists lived and worked. The members of this group were: Evgenii Kropivnitsky [[ ]] (1893-1979), the artist and poet, and the father of two artists Valentina Kropivnitskaya (ru) (1924-2008) and Lev Kropivnitsky [[ ]] (1922-1994), Olga Potapova [[ ]] (1892-1971), Oscar Rabin (ru) (b. 1928), Lidia Masterkova (ru) (1927-2008), Vladimir Nemukhin [[ ]] (1925-2016), Nikolai Vechtomov [[ ]] (1923-2007) and the poets Vsevolod Nekrasov [[ ]] (1934-2009), Genrikh Sapgir [[ ]] (1928-1999), and Igor Kholin [[ ]] (1920-1999). This group was not related due to aesthetic concerns, but due to "their shared search for a new sociocultural identity." If one generalization may be made of this group's aesthetic preferences and general worldview it is that, "the aestheticization of misery is precisely what distinguishes the representatives of the de-classed communal intelligentsia of the thaw era from their predecessors (the Socialist Realists), who created a paradisiac image of history."[9]

Many members of the Lianozovo group worked in an abstract style. The 1957 thaw resulted in the discovery of Western artistic practices and historical Russian avant-garde traditions by young Soviet artists. Artists began experimenting with abstraction, as it was the antithesis of Socialist Realism. However, the fallout from the Manezh exhibition, in 1962, caused restrictions to be enforced once again. The new restrictions could not however, curtail what the young artists had learned during the five-year interlude. Additionally, Victor Tupitsyn points out that the 1960s mark an era of "decommunalization" in the Soviet Union. Khrushchev worked to improve housing conditions, and a consequence of this was that artists began to get studios of their own, or shared spaces with like-minded colleagues.[9] If one is to follow Virginia Woolf's thesis that A Room of One's Own is the primary necessary factor for the proliferation of creative work, then it is easy to see how nonconformist art began flourishing at this time in the USSR.

Officially, those in the Lianozovo group were members of the Moscow Union of Graphic Artists, working in the applied and graphic arts. As such, they were not permitted to hold painting exhibitions, as that fell under the domain of the Artists' Union. Consequently, apartment exhibitions and literary salons began at this time as a means of publicly exhibiting. However, the Lianozovo group in particular was often harassed by Soviet officials as they were vigilant in pursuing public exhibitions of their work. In an attempt to circumvent the law, the Lianozovo group proposed an open-air exhibition in 1974, inviting dozens of other nonconformist artists also to exhibit. The result was the demolition of the exhibition by bulldozers and water cannons, for which reason the exhibition is still known bow as the Bulldozer Exhibition (ru).

Sretensky Boulevard Group

A group of artists that had studios on and around Sretensky Boulevard, Moscow, became a loosely associated like-minded community in the late 1960s. The members of this group were: Ilya Kabakov (ru) (b. 1933), Ülo Sooster, Eduard Steinberg, Erik Bulatov (ru) (b. 1933), Oleg Vassiliev (ru) (1931-2013), Viktor Pivovarov, Vladimir Yankilevsky (ru) (1938-2018), and sculptor Ernst Neizvestny (ru) (1925-2016). The artists' studios were also used as venues to show and exchange ideas about unofficial art. Like their colleagues in the Lianozovo group, the majority of visual artists who were part of the Sretensky Boulevard Group were admitted to the Moscow Union of Graphic Artists. This allowed the artists to work officially as book illustrators and graphic designers, which provided them with studio space, materials, and time to work on their own projects. Although they shared the same type of official career, the Sretensky group is not stylistically homogeneous. The name merely denotes the community that they formed as a result of working in close proximity to each other.

Moscow Conceptualists

However, many of the artists on Sretensky Boulevard were part of the Moscow Conceptualist school. This movement arose in the 1970s to describe the identity of the contemporary Russian artist in opposition to the government. As Joseph Bakstein explains, "The creation of this nonconformist tradition was impelled by the fact that an outsider in the Soviet empire stood alone against a tremendous state machine, a great Leviathan that threatened to engulf him. To preserve one's identity in this situation, one had to create a separate value system, including a system of aesthetic values."[6]

The aesthetic language of Moscow Conceptualism is self-conscious and often deals with the quotidian. Consequently, these artists incorporated their experiences of Soviet life into their art in a manner that was not overtly negative, but at varying times, nostalgic, disinterested, wry, and subtle. Erik Bulatov explains that conceptualist art is, "a rebellion of man against the everyday reality of life... a picture interests me as some kind of system... opening into the space of my everyday existence."[10] By exposing the underlying mechanisms of Soviet society and interpersonal interaction, the artists created a very real artistic language to rival the "official" propagandist language of the government.

This group includes Ilya Kabakov (ru) (b. 1933), Erik Bulatov (ru) (b. 1933), Oleg Vassiliev (ru) (1931-2013), Komar and Melamid [[ ]], [[ ]], Ivan Chuikov [[ ]] (b. 1935) [11], Viktor Pivovarov, and also broadly encompasses the Sots artists and the Collective Actions group, which were both influential in the construction of Russian conceptualist art. The term Moscow Conceptualism is sometimes used interchangeably with post-modernism, and is sometimes erroneously meant to include all of the nonconformist artists of the "Soviet generation." This term applies both to specific artists who were born in the 1930s and 1940s, grew up under Stalinism and came of age in the 1960s, and to certain artists of the next generation that were born in the 1950s, like the core of the Collective Actions group (Andrei Monastyrsky, Nikita Alexeiev, Nikolai Panitkov, Georgy Kiesewalter, etc.). Both these groups took nonconformist art in a new direction in the 1970s.

The Petersburg groups

1960s - 1970s

  • Mikhail Chemiakin's Petersburg Non-conformist Group developed out of a 1964 exhibition at the Hermitage Museum, where Mikhail Chemiakin (ru) (b. 1943) worked as gallery assistant. The official name of the exhibition was Exhibition of the artist-workers of the economic part of the Hermitage: Towards the 200th anniversary of Hermitage and it included the work of Chemiakin, V. Kravchenko, V. Uflyand, V. Ovchinnikov and O. Liagatchev. Opening on March 30–31, it was closed by the authorities on April 1. The Hermitage director, Mikhail Artamonov, was removed from his post.

In 1967 the Petersburg Group Manifesto was written and signed by Chemiakin, O. Liagatchev, E. Yesaulenko and V. Ivanov. V. Ivanov and M. Chemiakin had previously developed the idea of Metaphysical Synthesism, which proposed creating a new form of icon painting through the study of religious art across the ages.[13] The essay, Métaphysique Synthétisme included illustrations to the works of E.T.A. Hoffman and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor M. Dostoevsky.

A. Vasiliev and the miniature painter V. Makarenko joined the group later.

Four years after the founding of the group, in 1971, Chemiakin emigrated to France, and later in 1981 to the United States. In 2007 he returned to France, where he resides now.

Liagatchev, until his emigration to Paris in 1975, and Vasiliev continued to participate in exhibitions of non-conformist artists in Leningrad at the Gaza Palace of Culture (1974) and the Nevsky Palace of Culture (1975). Liagatchev's work in this period includes: Kafka, Intimeniy XX (1973) and Composition - Canon (1975). The group finally became defunct in 1979, ceasing to have joint exhibitions.

Gazanevsky Culture

The Gazanevsky Culture is also known as Gazanevsky Exhibitions, or Gazanevschchina (ru:Газаневщина), an unofficial artistic movement of the mid-1970s.[14]

  • Before the famous nonconformist Gazanevsky exhibitions in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), there were also three unofficial exhibitions at the Kozitsky Palace of Culture in 1968-1969. Among other artists, the group of artists who participated were: Yury Nashivochnikov (b. 1922), Anatoly Basin (ru) (b. 1936), Igor V. Ivanov (1934-2017), Natalia Toreeva (b. 1941), Evgeny Goryunov (1944-1994), and others, who were from the "School of Sidlin", the art studio at the Kapranov Palace of Culture.
  • In 1974, the First Exhibition of Nonconformist Artists took place at the Gaza Palace of Culture, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Russia. This exhibition was very short, it took only 4 days (December 22–25, 1974), but it was the historical event.
  • In 1975, another Unofficial Art exhibition took place at the Nevsky Palace of Culture, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Russia.

Apartment Exhibitions

In the 1970s, a new direction took place in an unofficial art movement in Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Many artists participated in nonconformist unofficial exhibitions which were held in the private apartments, so-called Apartment Exhibitions.

Some examples of the unofficial Apartment Exhibitions are:

In November 1975, the First Jewish exhibition "Aleph", also known as "Twelve from the Soviet Underground", took place in E. Abezgauz's (Eugene Abeshaus) apartment, where the following 12 Jewish artists participated: Evgeny Abezgauz (Eugene Abeshaus) (1939-2008), Anatoly Basin (ru) (b. 1936), Leonid Bolmat, Aleksandr Gurevich, Yuri Kalendarev, Tatyana Kornfeld, Aleksander Manusov (1947-1990), Aleksander Okun (ru) (b. 1949), Sima Ostrovsky, Alek Rapoport (ru) (1933-1997) , Osip Sidlin ( 1909-1972), and Olga Schmuilovich. In 1976, the catalog of the "12 from the Soviet Underground" was published in California, USA, reflecting this historical exhibition of the Jewish artists that took place in November 23–30, 1975 in the E. Abezgauz's apartment, and where over 4,000 people viewed this exhibition.

In 1976, the Second "Aleph" exhibition took place in E. Abezgauz's apartment, where such artists as E. Abezgauz (Eugene Abeshaus) (1939-2008), A. Arefiev (ru) (1931-1978), A. Basin (ru) (b. 1936), Richard Vasmi (ru) (1929-1998), A. Gurevich, Y. Kalendarev, Tatiana Kerner (1941-1973), [15] T. Kornfeld, A. Okun (ru) (b. 1949), S. Ostrovsky, Alek Rapoport (ru) (1933-1997), O. Sidlin (1909-1972), G. Shapiro, S. Schwartz, O. Schmuilovich, and others participated.

In 1976, before his emigration from Russia, Alek Rapoport (1933-1997) organized an exhibition "Petersburg" in his apartment, where many artists, including Evgeny Goryunov (1944-1994), Natalia Toreeva (b. 1941), and others participated with their artwork.

In March 1977, there was the "Self-portrait and portrait" exhibition, organized in their apartment by Rimma and Igor M. Loginov (? - 1984), who was the engineer and Leningrad art collector. The following artists were presented: E. Abezgauz (Eugene Abeshaus) (1939-2008), Anatoly Basin (ru) (b. 1936), Gleb Bogomolov (b. 1933),[16] S. Gershov, E. Goryunov (1944-1994), Igor V. Ivanov (1934-2017), B. Kozlov, A. Krasnovsky, Alexander Morev (ru) (1934-1979), Osip Sidlin (1909-1972), Natalia Toreeva (b. 1941), B. Tsiselsky, G. Shapiro.[17]

The Apartment Exhibitions were important places not only for the exhibition itself but also became a place where people could meet and discuss freely and openly about the art, painting, poetry, etc.

School of Sidlin ("Школа Сидлина")

Osip Sidlin (2/18/1909-9/23/1972) was educated at VKHUTEMAS (Higher State Artistic and Technical Institute, renamed later to Ilya Repin St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture). He studied under Alexander Osmerkin (ru) (1892-1953), Alexander Savinov (ru) (1881-1942), Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin (ru) (1878-1939), and also was in contact with Kazimir Malevich (ru) (1878-1935).[18]

Starting in the middle of the 1930s, Osip Sidlin was teaching art in Leningrad at such art schools as the Ilyich (Lenin) Palace of Culture, the First Five-Year Palace of Culture, and also at the Kapranov Palace of Culture till his sudden death of heart attack in 1972.[19]

Among his students were the following artists: Anatoly Basin (ru) (b. 1936),[20] Galina Basina (b. 1939), Vladimir Egorov (1918-?), Nina Fedotova (1925-?), Anatoly Golovastov (1930-2007), Evgeny Goryunov (1944-1994), [21] Igor V. Ivanov (1934-2017),[22] Galina (Sizova) Ivanova (b. 1937), Boris Kupin (b. 1939), Alexander Mikhailovsky (1923-2005?), Yury Nashivochnikov (b. 1922),[23] Sergey Sivertsev (b. 1934), Natalia Toreeva (b. 1941), [24] Margarita Trushina (b. 1941), Vasily Zhavoronkov (1918-2000), Vasily Yuzko (b. 1938),[25] and other artists, and the poet Yuli Goldstein (1940-1986), who provided to the group the wider vision not only to the art, but also to the literature and poetry.

  • In 1994, the exhibition the "Memory of teacher" took place in the State Museum of Urban Sculpture, St. Petersburg, Russia. [26] It was dedicated to the 85 years of birthday Anniversary of Osip Sidlin, the teacher of the "School of Sidlin". The art work of the following artists were exhibited: O. Sidlin, A. Basin, I. Ivanov, V. Egorov, N. Fedotova, A. Golovastov, E. Goryunov, A. Mikhailovsky, Y. Nashivochnikov, A. Shakirov, S. Sivertsev, N. Toreeva, G. Zhavoronkova, V. Yuzko.

Temple Wall School is continuation of the "School of Sidlin" movement. After the death of Osip Sidlin (1909-1972), the teacher of the "School of Sidlin" art group, his student, Yury Nashivochnikov (b. 1922), brought the young artists together and in 1992 organized the art school, called the "Temple Wall School".[27] Among his students were the following artists: Vladimir Garde (b. 1973), Dmitry Markul (b. 1949), Svetlana Moskovskaya (b. 1956), Vladimir Ustinsky (1958), Alexander Viziryako (b. 1958), and other artists. The "Temple Wall School" continues the tradition of the "School of Sidlin", mostly on study the Byzantine and old Russian art, based on the two-dimensional wall fresco paintings and Russian icons. In 2015, the thesis the "School of Sidlin and Temple Wall School" was written by Svetlana Moskovskaya, Y. Nashivochnikov's student of the "Temple Wall School", and published in March, 2016 under the St. Petersburg State University, where she is discussing the continuation of the tradition of the artistic movement of 20th century to the 21st century, the next generation of the visual art movement.[28]

  • In 1996 and 2002, the exhibitions of "Temple Wall" took place in the State Museum of Urban Sculpture, St. Petersburg, Russia. [29]

The Sterligov Group ("Группа В. Стерлигова")

Vladimir Sterligov (ru) (1904-1973) was the student of Kazimir Malevich (ru) (1878-1935), Pavel Filonov, and all his life followed K. Malevich's principles of cubism and suprematism in this artistic tradition.[30] His followers were: A. Baturin (1914-2003), Elena Gritsenko (b. 1947),[31] A. Nosov (b. 1947), Mikhail Tserush (b. 1948), [32] G. Zubkov (b. 1940),[33] and other artists, who expending the Sterligov's philosophy in their artistic view.[34]

Pavel Kondratiev (1902-1985) was also the student of Kazimir Malevich (ru) (1878-1935), Pavel Filonov, Alexander Savinov at the Academy of Arts/Vkhutein, and collaborated with V. Sterligov and T. Glebova at that time and later. So, they both have the same kind of Niche in art, where their followers and pupils were in one group or another, but followed the same kind of principles in art. Pavel Kondratiev was also a follower of Pavel Filonov's "Masters of Analytical Art" (MAI) movement in Leningrad from 1927 to 1932.[35]

The Arefiev Circle ("Круг Арефьева")

Alexander Arefiev (ru) (1931-1978) was a leader of the nonconformist group in Leningrad (St. Petersburg).[36] He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1977, and soon died in Paris in 1978.

The group included the following artists: A. Arefiev (Arekh),[37] Valentin Gromov (ru) (b. 1930), [38] Richard (Rikhard) Vasmi (ru) (1929-1998), who is also known by his quote "The artist painted his own Sarcophagus all his life",[39] Vladimir Shagin (ru) (1932-1999),[40] Sholom Schwartz (ru) (1929-1995),[41] Natalia Zhilina (1933-2005), who was close to this group,[42] and the poet Roald Mandelstam (ru) (1932-1961), who provided to the group the inspiration for their art work. Their group was called as "The Order of Mendicant Painters" or "The Order of Unsold Painters", and they were recognized only after the starting of the new Nonconformists movement in Leningrad and their participation in the exhibitions at the Gaza Palace of Culture (1974) and the Nevsky Palace of Culture (1975).

The "Other" nonconformist artists (mid-1970s)

Besides the artists participated as the schools, or groups, described above, these artists participated individually in the important time of the Soviet non-conformist art. They took the active part in the unofficial art, including their participation in the apartment exhibitions and in the unofficial art exhibitions, such as the famous non-conformist Gaza-Nevsky exhibitions in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in the mid-1970s.

  • In 1990, the album "The Artists of the Gaza-Nevsky culture", compiled by E. Andreeva and published as a part of the "Contemporary Leningrad Avant-garde" series in St. Petersburg, Russia. Besides the artists included there from the "School of Sidlin", the "Sterligov Group", and "Arefiev Circle", the following artists were included in this album among other founders of the Gaza-Nevsky culture: Evgeny Abezgauz (Eugene Abeshaus) (1939-2008), Valentin Afanasiev (ru), painter and musician (b. 1945), Anatoly Belkin (ru) (b. 1953), Mikhail Chemiakin (ru) (b. 1943), Yury Dyshlenko (ru) (1936-1995), Vadim Filimonov (ru) (b. 1947), Yury Galetsky (b. 1944), Vladlen Gavrilchik (ru) (1929-2017), Tatiana Kerner (1941-1973), Vitaly Kubasov (b. 1937), Mikhail Koulakov (ru) (1933-2015), Nikolay Lubushkin (1936-1992), Alexander Manusov (1947-1990), Yury Medvedev (b. 1939), Vladimir Michailov (b. 1931), Alexander Morev (ru) (1934-1 979), Evgeny Mikhnov-Voitenko (ru) (1932-1988), Vladimir Nekrasov (b. 1939), Alexander Okun (ru) (b. 1949), Vladimir Ovchinnikov (b. 1941), [43] Yury Petrochenkov (b. 1942), Alek Rapoport (ru) (1933-1997), Yuly Rybakov (ru) (b. 1946), Evgeny Rukhin (ru) (1943-1976), Igor Sacharow-Ross (Sacharov-Ross, Zakharov-Ross) (b. 1947), Igor Sinyavin (1937-2000), Igor Tulpanov (b. 1939), Gennady Ustugov (b. 1937), and others.

Publications and late Exhibitions

  • In 2001, "Школа Сидлина" ("School of Sidlin") book, published by Isaak Kushnir, as a part of the series of the books "Avant-garde on the Neva" about the Soviet Avant-garde Art, where the students of the School of Sidlin included, St. Petersburg, Russia. ISBN 5-901751-01-9, OCLC 845543694
  • In 2005, "Герои Ленинградской культуры 1950-1980-е" ("Heroes of Leningrad culture 1950s-1980s") book, compiled by Larisa Skobkina (ru) (b. 1951), the curator of the Central Exhibition Hall "Manege", to reflect the unofficial art groups formed around the artists and teachers, such as V. Sterligov, P. Kondratiev, O. Sidlin, G. Dlugach, N. Akimov, S. Levin, and others. It includes also the artists who did not belong to any art groups, but still played the notable role in the nonconformist movement at that time, St. Petersburg, Russia (in Russian). OCLC 637824734
  • In 2013, the Museum of the History of St. Petersburg organized the exhibition that reflects the famous art groups and schools at 1970s, including O. Sidlin, V. Sterligov, P. Kondratiev, A. Arefiev, and others.[44]
  • In 2013, "Petersburg 20 Years" exhibition (1993-2013), organized by "Manege", St. Petersburg, Russia, where the sculptures of the artists, the paintings of the "Arefiev Circle", the artwork of the "School of Sidlin" art group, and others were exhibited.[45]
  • In 2016-2017, the artwork of the artists, including the artists from the "School of Sidlin" (Y. Nashivochnikov, A. Basin, I. Ivanov, Natalia Toreeva), "Sterligov Group", "Arefiev Circle" (A. Arefiev, R. Vasmi, V. Gromov, V. Shagin, and Sh. Schwartz), and others, now in the "Tsarskoselskaya Collection" (ru) State Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.[46]
  • In 2018, the St. Petersburg State University organized the exhibition of the works of Leningrad nonconformist artists from 1970-1990, based on their collection. There were the works of the artists represented the different schools and groups. For example, V. Sterligov's group was represented by work of A. Baturin, the School of O. Sidlin was represented by works of A. Basin and Natalia Toreeva, etc. See the article about this exhibition, in Russian.[47]

The 1980s

Timur Novikov (1958-2002) was one of the leaders of St. Petersburg art in the 1980s. In 1982 his theory of "Zero Object" acted as one of the foundations of Russian conceptual art.[48] In the 1990s he founded Neo-Academism.

St. Petersburg artists Igor Polyakov and Alexander I. Rappoport (b. 1959) formed the underground art group the "Battle Elephants" in 1984.

Olga Kisseleva was one of the leaders of Russian New media art.

Another important St. Petersburg artist who emerged in the 1980s was Afrika (Sergei Bugaev).

Absheron Artists (Azerbaijani Artists) of the 1960s-1980s

Javad Mirjavadov (1923-1992), Azerbaijani artist, a non-conformist and a reformer, whose masterpieces have had a tremendous influence on the development of contemporary Azerbaijani art. [49] A turning point in his creative work came when he was a student and saw a reproduction of Paul Cezanne's Mardi Gras, experiencing creative regeneration. This passionate, dedicated and fearless man headed to Saint Petersburg to study the works of Cezanne, Van Gogh, Matisse and other outstanding artists of the 20th century. In order to fully grasp the enormous courage of this decision, we must recall that this happened during Stalin's rule, when taking interest in these painters was considered heterodoxy and even treachery. Displaying the art of impressionists and post-impressionists was banned at the time and, though these works were stored in the Hermitage museum, they were considered anti-Soviet. Once Mirjavadov entered the office of Hermitage director Mikhail Artamonov demanded: "Show me Cezanne, or I will kill you!" Artamonov replied, smiling: "Why kill me, we will show you everything." Owing to a miraculous set of circumstances, Mirjavadov was allowed to enter the Hermitage repository, where he embraced with his whole being the paintings by El Greco, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Cezanne. Later he asked the art gallery director why he had not called the police, but decided to help him instead, and Artamonov said: "No one in the whole country needs this. But here you are, rushing in like the wind, a man from another land, and all you need is art and nothing else, just look at you!"

The Odessa Group

By the mid-1970s, in Odessa, a core group of nonconformist artists was formed whose most active members were: Vladimir Strelnikov,[50] Alexander Anufriev, Valentin Khrushch, Victor Mariniuk, Lyudmila Yastreb, Stanislav Sychov, Lev Mezhberg, Evgeni Rakhmanin, Ruslan Makoev, Andrei Antoniuk and others. These artists continued to show their art privately in spite of the constant harassment from the authorities and the oppression and hatred coming from the majority of the officially recognised artists. They had close connections with the Moscow centres of the underground art movement and were participating in the apartment exhibitions of nonconformist art in Moscow and in Leningrad. They also invited their Russian colleagues to visit Odessa and to take part in their apartment exhibitions there.

The following artists took an active part in the unofficial, so called "apartment exhibitions" in the 1970s in Odessa. Some of them participated in the "apartment exhibitions" in Moscow as well. Valentin Altanietz (1936–1995) Andrey Antoniuk, Alexander Anufriev,[50] Valery Basanietz, Alexei Bokatov, Igor Bozhko, Nadia Haiduk,[50] Valentin Khrushch (1943–2005), Michail Kowalski, Ruslan Makoev, Victor Mariniuk, Volodymyr Naumez, Nikolay Novikov, Victor Pavlov (artist), Valery Parfenenko, Evgeni Rakhmanin, Viktor Risovich, Sergei Savchenko, Vitaly Sazonov, Valentin Shapavlenko, Yuri Shurevich (1937–1997), Oleg Sokolov, Nikolai Stepanov (sculptor) (1937–2003), Alexander Stovbur, Vladimir Strelnikov, Stanislav Sychov (1937–2003), Vladimir Tziupko, Alexander Voloshinov, Ludmilla Yastreb (1945–1980), Anna Zilberman (1935 - 2000).


Collectors of Soviet and Russian Nonconformist art include:

See also


  1. Kornetchuk, Elena. "From the 1917 Revolution to Khrushchev's Thaw," Nonconformist Art: The Soviet Experience 1956-1986, eds. Alla Rosenfeld and Norton T. Dodge. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995, pp. 36-41. ISBN 0-500-23709-3.
  2. Alla Rosenfeld, Norton Townshend Dodge, Jane Voorhees, Art of the Baltics: The Struggle for Freedom of Artistic Expression Under the Soviets, Rutgers University Press, 2001, p. 9. ISBN 0-8135-3042-3.
  3. Marilyn Rueschemeyer, Soviet Emigre Artists: life and work in the USSR and the United States, M E Sharpe Inc, 1985, p. 47. ISBN 0-87332-296-7.
  4. Nicholas Rzhevsky, The Cambridge Companion to Modern Russian Culture, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 227. ISBN 0-521-47799-9.
  5. Kornetchuk, Elena. "From the 1917 Revolution to Khrushchev's Thaw," Nonconformist Art: The Soviet Experience 1956-1986, eds. Alla Rosenfeld and Norton T. Dodge. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995, pp. 46-47. ISBN 0-500-23709-3.
  6. 1 2 Bakshtein, Joseph. "A View from Moscow," Nonconformist Art: The Soviet Experience 1956-1986, eds. Alla Rosenfeld and Norton T. Dodge. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995, p. 332. ISBN 0-500-23709-3.
  7. Biography of artist Andrey Grositsky.
  8. Artist Yuri Zharkikh, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  9. 1 2 Tupitsyn, Victor. "Nonidentity with Identity: Moscow Communal Modernism, 1950s-1980s," Nonconformist Art: The Soviet Experience 1956-1986, eds. Alla Rosenfeld and Norton T. Dodge. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995, p. 86. ISBN 0-500-23709-3
  10. Roberts, Norma, ed. The Quest for Self-Expression: Painting in Moscow and Leningrad, 1965-1990, Columbus: Columbus Museum of Art, 1990, p. 72
  11. Ivan Chuikov artist, Member of the Moscow Conceptualist Group.
  12. "Klever, the non-conformist soviet epoch". Klever, the non-conformist soviet epoch. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  13. "The Chemiakin Foundation". Archived from the original on 30 April 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  14. "Gazanevsky Culture", encyclopedia, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  15. Artists Tatiana Kerner, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  16. Artist Gleb Bogomolov, St. Petersburg, Russia. Some of his art works can be seen here:
  17. (See #95 for this event).
  18. Osip Sidlin, artist, teacher and founder of the "School of Sidlin", St. Petersburg encyclopedia, Russia.
  19. "School of Sidlin" art group, encyclopedia, in Russian, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  20. Artist Anatoly Basin, Member of the "School of Sidlin" art group, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  21. Artist Evgeny Goryunov, Member of the "School of Sidlin" art group, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  22. Artist Igor V. Ivanov, Member of the "School of Sidlin" art group, St. Petersburg, Russia. Some of his art works can be seen here:
  23. Artist Yury Nashivochnikov, Member of the "School of Sidlin" art group, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  24. "Fiction Books by Natalia G. Toreeva". Retrieved 5 December 2017. Artist Natalia Toreeva, Member of the "School of Sidlin" art group, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  25. Artist Vasily Yuzko, Member of the "School of Sidlin" art group, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  26. The "School of Sidlin" exhibition in the State Museum of Urban Sculpture, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  27. "Temple Wall" art group, St. Petersburg encyclopedia, Russia.
  28. "Theses 2015 - The Actual Problems of History and Theory of Art". Актуальные проблемы теории и истории искусства VII - Конференция Актуальные проблемы теории и истории искусства. 26 March 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2017. (See article under Svetlana Moskovskaya)
  29. The "Temple Wall" exhibitions in the State Museum of Urban Sculpture, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  30. Vladimir Sterligov, artist, teacher and founder of the "Sterligov Group", St. Petersburg, Russia.
  31.,-elena Elena Gritsenko, artist, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  32. Mikhail Tserush, artist from the "Sterligov Group", St. Petersburg, Russia.
  33. Gennady Zubkov, artist from the "Sterligov Group", St. Petersburg, Russia.
  34. The Sterligov Group, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  35. Pavel Kondratiev, artist, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  36. "Arefiev Circle" in MISP, Museum of 20th-21st Century St. Petersburg Art, Russia.
  37. Alexander Arefiev, artist, and founder of the "Arefiev Circle" group, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  38. Valentin Gromov, artist, the Member of the "Arefiev Circle" group, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  39. Richard Vasmi, artist, the Member of the "Arefiev Circle" group, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  40. Vladimir Shagin, artist, the Member of the "Arefiev Circle" group, St. Petersburg, Russia. His art work can be seen here:
  41. Sholom Schwartz, artist, the Member of the "Arefiev Circle" group, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  42. "Journey of Natalia Zhilina" exhibition, 2014.
  43. Vladimir Ovchinnikov, artist. His art work can be seen here:
  44. "Museum of the History of St. Petersburg" exhibition, 2013, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  45. "Petersburg 20 Years" (1993-2013) exhibition, organized by "Manege", 2013, St. Petersburg, Rissia (in Russian).
  46. See the artists names in the "Tsarskoselskaya Collection" State Museum, St. Petersburg, 2016-2017, Russia.
  47. "St. Petersburg State University exhibition, May 2018, Russia".
  48. Tom Masters, St. Petersburg, Lonely Planet, 2005, p36. ISBN 1-74104-169-4
  49. Azerbaijani artist of the 1960s-1980s.
  50. 1 2 3 "Hall 3. The second wave of Odessa avant-garde. Apartment exhibitions of nonconformists in the 1970s". Музей современного искусства Одессы. Retrieved 5 December 2017.

Further reading

  • Irène Semenoff-Tian-Chansky, Le pinceau, la faucille et le marteau: les peintres et le pouvoirs en Union Soviétique de 1953 à 1989, Institut d'Études Slaves, 1993
  • Norton Dodge and Alla Rosenfeld, eds. From Gulag to Glasnost: Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995.
  • Regina Khidekel "Russian Avant-garde - Work in Progress" - "Constructivist Roots: Contemporary Concern", Maryland College Park University,1997
  • Regina Khidekel "Layers" University of Maryland/Baltimore County Fine Arts Gallery ARTNews January 1997
  • Regina Khidekel "Sergei Bugaev" ARTNews, April 1998
  • Regina Khidekel "Traditionalist Rebels" - Forbidden Art, 1998
  • Regina Khidekel "From gulag to Glasnost : Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union" ARTNews, February 1996
  • Regina Khidekel "It's the Real Thing." Soviet and Post-Soviet Sots Art and American Pop Art - Minnesota University Press, 1998
  • May Abbe "It's The Real Thing" ARTNews, June 1999
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