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Introduction

Tatiana Kofyan's Introduction

I am hereby starting a Russian Avant-garde gallery. This form of art has come to the knowledge of Western and American public in the recent twenty years, while in Russia it has only been "permitted" in the last decade of the XXth century, before which time it was hiding underground.

Although its history is yet to be written, Russian Avant-garde has had great impact on the development of art all over the world. Already names such as Malevich, Kandinsky, Larionov, Goncharova, Lissitzky, Tatlin have found their place in the history of world art as founders of "off-side" art movements. The Avant-garde is much like an iceberg whose tip we can well see, but there are deep layers, numerous new names for the art-lovers, which even the art-critic specialists may find unfamiliar.

It has long been customary to consider the Avant-garde artists as charlatans; mutineers; breakers of form and rule. Nevertheless, when you leaf through the various artists biographies, it becomes apparent that most of these people have received a brilliant education in art (and in many cases - not only arts). They were all passionate about their work and worked incessantly; participated in international exhibitions all over the world, and with great success; have been awarded prizes and honorary titles. At the break of the 1930s, the Soviet government has "terminated" the Avant-garde, formally. The hundreds of paintings purchased by various museums were hidden away in storage cellars or sent out to small provincial museums, where most perished, though some enthusiasts were able to save a few works. Drawings were destroyed. And as to the artists themselves, they had to either change their skin and proclaim the regime, or remove themselves to teaching, organizing exhibitions and other such peripheral jobs. And even that didn't always save their lives and their secret "freedom" of expression. Many have paid with their lives or their freedom for their will to create differently, to innovate. Many lived in poverty, on the verge of hunger, and the exceptions had to serve the lies and empty slogans, and pay the toll.

I would not presume to the absolute completeness of the material presented here, although I shall strive to bring before you as many Avant-garde paintings of the greatest number of artists as I can, including their names and biographies, as well as some information on different movements in Russian art in the second half of the XX century. This would undoubtedly take some time, therefore I would humbly ask everyone who may find himself interested in this site to return again occasionally. The presented material would be growing continuously.

I hope that after you familiarize yourself with the creations of these artists and reach a better understanding of their ideas you may grow to love and understand the Russian Avant-garde.

Tatiana Kofyan, September 2002

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