A Trap for Judges

Early Works of Russian Avant Garde (1900-1915) From the Kostaki Collection of the State Museum of Contemporary Art

February 19th – End of May, 2010

Monastery of the Lazarists

Poetry meets the visual arts. The unexpected “marriage” of two movements from different sectors of the art world—futurism manifested from literature and cubism from visual arts- give birth to the pure Russian compositional term “cubo-futurism”, along with new possibilities for these two sectors of art. One hundred years have passed since the publication of the first manifesto of Russian futurism, “A Trap for Judges” (SADOK SUDEI), and to commemorate this, the State Museum of Contemporary Art has organized a similarly titled exhibition with early works of Russian Avant Garde (1900-1915) from the Kostaki Collection of the Museum, which opens at 20:00, on February 19th, at the Monastery of the Lazarists.

The exhibition presents early avant garde works up to 1915, emphasizing the cubo-futuristic period and the influences of French cubism and Italian futurism. All the works are part of the Kostaki Collection of the SMCA. Specific works presented for the first time include the designs and plans from the travels of Popova to Europe (France-Italy) and cubo-futuristic studies of Ivan Klioun. Also presented are early works of Natalia Gondsarova, Elena Gouro, Michail Larionof, Ivan Pouni, Olga Rozanova, Nantiezda Oundalstova, which all depict the transition from symbolism to cubo-futurism. Many works have not been previously presented to the public. The exhibition is accompanied by cubo-futuristic publications of the time, with the focus being the first manifesto of Russian futurists which circulated in 1910 under the title “A Trap for Judges” (Sadok Sudei). In 1913, the second anthology of the same name was published.

Transferring us into the mood of the period, the Director of the State Museum of Contemporary Art, Maria Tsantsanoglou explains: “The decade of 1910 marks the golden decade of controversy in Russian art, as well as the end of ties with the past and aesthetic subversion. A new generation of Russian artists search for new methods of expression, all the while following the development of European art of the first two decades of the 20th century, and create compositional aesthetic proposals focusing on the joining of cubism and futurism in one uniform movement called “cubo-futurism”, as well as the joining of all the arts in the unified quest for something new, through the re-evaluation of tradition and the absolution of the linear evolution of history. During these years, there is a marked rise in female artists (Elena Gouro, Natalia Gontsarova, Liubov Popova, Nantiesda Oundaltsova, Vera Pestel, Alexandra Exter, Barbara Stepanova, etc.) who travel around Europe, study and work hard to institute and organize the new art form. Also, during these years, there arises an elation of socio-political theories and a strong interest on behalf of the artists to promote artistic creation in the social movement.”

She further adds: “The avant garde team of cubo-futurism, in their quest for new art forms, joined, naturally and effortlessly, poetry with visual arts. Either way, the clearly Russian composite term “cubo-futurism” unifies two movements in art, one purely visual art, cubism, and one founded in literary experimentalism, futurism. This “marriage” unknowingly opened the horizons for both of these art forms, which, from 1909 up until the legal enforcement of distinction of the arts in the Soviet Union in 1934, co-existed indivisibly. The natural offspring of this union is the book. Futuristic books, a large chapter in Russian avant garde, are published with cubistic and primitive iconography, with typographical experimentations and overabundant poetic language, a fact which is yet another example of the intentions of avant garde artists to combine the arts and create a drastic reformation of the existing methods of portrayal and communication with their public.”

The exhibition will include the viewing of films during the entire duration of the exhibition, lectures (March-April), and a special dedication marking the 80 years following the death of the Russian futurist, Vladimir Mayiakofsky.

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