Russian Abstraction: Second Wind
12.11.2022 - 12.02.2023
In 2006 Kournikova Gallery, first time in Russia, held an exhibition of four French avant-garde artists with Russian origins – Andre Lanskoy, Serge Poliakoff, Nicolas de Stael and Serge Charchoune, presenting with their works the second wind of abstraction that blew in and around post-war France. Since then their names have become integral to the national cultural life, and now we are launching another project in this field.

It happened in April, 1944 in the occupied Paris – Jean Bucher Gallery was holding one of the last lifetime Kandinsky's shows which symbolically combined his masterpieces with the works of an unknown painter Nicolas de Stael who had just stopped being figurative. The relay race was handed on to. De Stael shortly becomes outstanding. Sadly he committed suicide 11 years later – too emotional and talented to survive the crack of the world in the 1940-ies. What he managed was amazing, he broke through pure abstraction to the new perception of the figurative, looking into the sense of things, with colors.

Andre Lanskoy also learned Kandinsky's lessons. His move to objectlessness in 1937 led him to the glory of a master in so called lyrical abstraction. "The art became instinctive, an existential act, a scream, a song of paints and lines" (J.-C. Marcade).

Serge Poliakov met Kandinsky, Robert and Sonia Delaunay in 1937, produced the first abstract work in 1938. In his best period he worked with large color volumes, meditatively balanced, in a way Rothko did, equally far from both geometrical and lyrical abstraction.

Pierre Dmitrienko, born in the Russian emigrants family, joined the lyrical abstraction later. He was close to Lanskoy, Poliakov and de Stael and worked a lot on exploring and spiritualizing the nature in his paintings.

"Pierre Grimm is the son of Byzantium and Bonnard" (J.-D. Rey). He approached abstract in still-life through the vanishing of forms and the gaining of rhythms, by growing planes which suppress objects for the sake of pure colors.

Serge Charchoune experimented in the majority of avant-guard trends and is known as the only Russian Dadaist. He was "constantly dying and resurrecting" (S. Charchoune). Mystery and mysticism were natural of his work, as well as spirituality. In his last twenty years it was music that ruled his art.

Music was essential to all of them. The last masterpiece by de Stael "The Concert" has been created under the influence of Schoenberg and Webern. Musical rhythms are seen in Lanskoy's paintings. Beethoven "was conducting" to Charchoune, Pierre Grimm explored sound in his art. Serge Poliakov played guitar masterly and Pierre Dmitrienko's wife was a pianist.

Born Russian, these artists were inevitably turning to origins – the Russian icon, they drew its power of light, form elements and philosophy. Mysticism, a part of spirituality, is integral of Russian culture with no exception to Russian modernists who perceived anew the abstract idea while in emigration. This essential feature distinguished them on the West horizon. "Spiritual life of which art is a part and where it appears as one of the most powerful elements, is the move forward and upward. It is the move to comprehension. It may take different forms but generally it retains the same inner meaning and aim" (W. Kandinsky)

Natalia Kournikova

Translated by
Polina Vologdina