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582 10 2013 , 29 2014 . 785

University news
Russian Avant-Garde as Revolution in Art

 First of all, Nina Sekachova defined the phenomenon of the avant-garde. The avant-garde is a means of searching and experimenting in the arts, of striving towards the future. Pioneers of abstract art forms have always disavowed depictions of visible shapes, desiring instead to peer into the essence of things. In 19th-century Russia, Realism prevailed as a means of depicting reality in the forms of reality itself. The art of symbolism and modernism at the turn of the last century marked a departure from this principle. Avant-garde artists would continue this process further by radically breaking the chain of gradual progressions away from naturalistic art.
One of the most important developments in the creation of Avant-Garde art was the (re)discovery of the Russian Icon. Ancient Russian icons had been covered for centuries with a layer of grit, leading to false opinions regarding their color scheme. At the beginning of the 20th century, icons began to be cleaned, revealing their bright, pure colors. This was so uncustomary for people that they could not believe how the icons actually looked. This became a sort of challenge to the avant-garde artists. Another such key moment came when they were introduced to the latest movements in Western art, such as fauvism, cubism, and futurism.
The beginning of the Avant-Garde can be ascribed to the year 1910, and specifically to the Knave of Diamonds exhibition organized by Mikhail Larionov, the first avant-garde ideologue. The title of the exhibition was intended to be provocative, a sort of slap to the face of public opinion or épatage, meant to liberate people from bourgeois perceptions of beauty. The slogan of the group led by Larionov was primitivism, with an orientation towards signboards, folk paintings, wood-block prints, and icons.

Kandinsky, in turn, wrote a work about the spiritual dimension in art, providing an ideological basis for the avant-garde. He considered three objects to influence the psyche of man: color, shape (form), and object, and it was his desire to create a grammar of forms and hues. Kandinsky considered himself an Orthodox Christian, and accordingly the greatest influence on him was iconography. It is possible to discern a procession of saints in his Improvisation of 1911. His icon of Saint George the Victory-bearer, Saint George, of 1911, is a variation on the theme. In it, the artist reimagined the theme of Saint Georges battle with the serpent in the language of abstract forms and hues. The most exalted series of paintings by him are the Compositions. The most famous of these, the 6th and 7th, are based on the motifs of the Flood and the Apocalypse, and foretell the Revolution and First World War.
The main figure in the avant-garde movement was Kazimir Malevitch. In his autobiography, he writes that icons were a significant influence on him. For him, icons are the highest form of peasant art, and he came to understand peasants through icons. The idea of the black square first appeared in his artistic opus in 1913, when he was working on the set for the futuristic opera Victory over the Sun. The plot of the play is in essence that new people have deposed the sun from the sky and replaced it with a new symbol: the black square. Towards the end of 1915, Malevitch stated the principles of Suprematism and displayed his famous 48 Suprematist paintings, the centerpoint of which was his Black Square, a symbol and icon of the Russian avant-garde. The name of this exhibition, 0.10, stood for 10 people proceeding from null [0] forms. The words null form refer to none other than the Black Square. Malevitch placed this work in the Beautiful Corner (i.e. the place in Russian houses where icons were usually kept), to signify that it was an icon of style. But this is not by way of mocking the icon, said Nina Sekacheva. This null form, where all colours and hues have faded away, which has swallowed up all forms and objects that preceded it, is the beginning of a new reality. On the eve of the Revolution, artists who had come out in favor of the null form expressed their belief in a coming transformation of man and the world that could not be reduced to mere rearrangements of the social order: so Ms. Skacheva concluded her account of the history of the Russian avant-garde.
The lecture series on 1917 offers those in attendance an opportunity to relive this tragic year in Russian history, to reflect on the political and cultural events that occurred in it, and to learn about how the revolution featured in literature, music, art, and cinematography. The lectures will be taking place each week on Tuesdays in the main building of Saint Tikhons University (Likhov Lane). Attendance is free of charge.

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