Inter-Pollination in the Russian Avant-Garde

Popova4WEB1 John Freedman in Moscow Times:

There is something about the Russian arts of the first three decades of the 20th century that will not let us go. It doesn’t matter what the field is. You can start picking names of writers, directors, painters, composers and photographers almost at random and it will make the beginnings of an encyclopedia: Igor Stravinsky; Vsevolod Meyerhold; Dmitry Shostakovich; Kazimir Malevich; Alexander Blok; Sergei Eisenstein; Alexander Rodchenko; and list could go on. It was a time when artists really were out ahead, forging an avant-garde. In fact, in my view, to this day few have caught up with the art of that time. The work those people created is still experimental, still breaking down barriers, still challenging us to see beyond our blinders.

It was a time when the notion of discrete genres began crumbling like a house of cards, and one of the great crossroads where artists met was the theatrical stage. The composer Shostakovich wrote music for the director Meyerhold. The painters Natalya Goncharova, Lyubov Popova and Alexandra Ekster created sets and costumes for various directors, including Meyerhold and Alexander Tairov. The poets Blok and Vladimir Mayakovsky began writing plays. A man named Eisenstein, who was educated to make theater productions, began working with film.

Since I am always fascinated by the inter-pollination of various art forms, I recently was compelled to take in a small exhibit called “Theater in Works by Russian Artists” at the New Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val. It is scheduled to be up until March 10, so you have plenty of time to do the same.