Blue Acrobat by Pleg Golovko painting

The main branch of the collection, however, consists of the works of a group of St. Petersburg artists. St. Petersburg, traditionally a center of aesthetic non-conformism, is home to the two principal regional art academies - the College of Repin Art Academy and The Academy of Industrial Art and Design. In these two institutions the major currents of the Northern Russian art world are brought together. Occupying opposite ends of the academic spectrum, the former functions as a center of classical art education and the latter as - of innovation.

Perhaps the most famous of the St. Petersburg group is Vladimir Ovchinnikov, one of the most distinguished members of the Russian art underground of the seventies. Well known in Europe and the United States, his paintings occupy a well-deserved place as exemplars of modern visual art. (American viewers can find his works in the Metropolitan Museum and in the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection at the Zimmerly Art Museum). Characterized by a brutally frank perspective (Two on the Roof), his creations depict - in the style of Social Realism that bloomed in the 1930’s - the universal theme of human fragility in a cold and indifferent world. The thrust of Mr. Ovchinnikov’s work may be described as the attempt to show the stamp of the eternal in the commonplace; and it is a device which he uses to great effect. The artist holds, by the way, the post of chairman of the International Federation of Artists. Bringing together the many currents of the St. Petersburg art world, this organization has greatly facilitated our attempt to gather the work of so many renowned artists in one exhibition.

Sergey Sergeev played a key role as a founding father of the outlawed unofficial art movement of the Soviet era. Admirably exceeding the bounds of their genre, his “Metaphysical Still-Lives” bring out subtly and forcefully the hidden esoterica of their subject matter while imbuing the beholder with the feeling of just having had a peek at the Far Side (Kimmerijsky Still life).

Another group of artists - Arthur Molev, Yuri and Galina Sychev, Alexander Korolev - avoid the temptation to plumb the depths in favor of a lighter and more innocent world; one that is rendered with an almost fantastic blend of color. From the childlike yet effective use of blues in Molev’s Physics Games to Korolev’s masterful evocation of a woman’s emotional aura in a series of pictures devoted to his wife (She, Julia is Reading) to the symbolic richness of the works of Yuri Sychev (Playing with Stones, Sunflowers Harvest) these pieces command our attention through a primitive and energetic use of color and light. The abstract images of Galina Sycheva (Good morning, Queen Beatrice), on the other hand, give off the quieter bouquet of feminine irony; replete with shades of sarcasm and a bewitching air of mystery.

Characterized by their youthfulness and daring, the works of the above mentioned group stand in stark contrast to those of Anatoly Zaslavsky. Outstanding in their thematic integrity, his paintings have excited both Russian and American audiences in their artful appreciation of life’s most common moments. Having lived for some time in the United States (among his American works is Mountain in Colorado), Mr. Zaslavsky is a member of The Contemporary Academy of Art. Among the Academy’s achievements is its record of aid and nourishment to, in its diehard dedication to the cause of artistic freedom, some of the most radical Russian painters in Russia today.

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Oleg Golovko, Blue acrobat 1997, oil on canvas, 65.5 x 54 cm
Hermitage Art Center