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Vladimir Yankilevsky. Mystery of Being – MMOMA


The Moscow Museum of Modern Art presents «Mystery of Being» — an exhibition of a major figure of Russian nonconformist art Vladimir Yankilevsky held in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the artist’s birth, which unfortunately he didn’t live to see. The show includes around 200 pieces from both public and private collections in Russia and abroad as well as from the artist’s collection. Many of the works are presented to the public for the first time. Paintings, works on paper, triptychs, albums, automatic drawings — all this accompanied by the curators’ texts help the viewer decipher the code of Vladimir Yankilevsky’s oeuvre. The artist was enthusiastically involved in the preparation of the show, which in a way can be considered his last large-scale piece.

The exhibition title, «Mystery of Being,» reflects the central subject of Yankilevsky’s oeuvre that consists in searching for the existential kernel, which, in the artist’s view, cannot be fully grasped. Yankilevsky started reflecting on such themes as the aloneness of man in the universe, inner and outer freedom, and the male-female dialectic in his early pieces of the 1950s. Yankilevsky’s preoccupation with these subjects as well his experiments with form and color, which he carried out in parallel with developing theoretical ideas, departed from Soviet official clichés. Resulting from the artist’s formal and conceptual quests was the concept of triptych. The format of a three-panel painting is intended to express the collision between opposing notions. Yankilevsky’s understanding of collision is far from literal. In his view, the artist should depict not the subject but rather his or her relation to it, that is, the artist should maintain a detached stance towards the subject at the same time developing empathy with it. This twofold perspective allows the subject ambiguity and depth. In a similar way, this exhibition takes a comprehensive perspective on Yankilevsky’s work.

The show is divided into six sections, the first of which is dedicated to Yankilevsky’s early works including small-format studies from the late 1950s, paintings and pastels. In this section stands out Yankilevsky’s «Male Portrait» (1957) painted by the young artist under the influence of Picasso. The kernel of the project — sections titled «Space of Emotions» and «Anatomy of Feelings» — features a series of male profile portraits, works dedicated to the relationship between the feminine and the masculine, and Yankilevsky’s first compound pieces such as «Small Triptych» (1963), «Exodus» (1963), «Triptych No. 5. Adam and Eve» (1965).

The «Mutants» section is characterized by a spiky etching style and poignant content. Etching series from the 1970s («City-Masks» and «Mutants»), which Yankilevsky created as a response to the events of the Thaw, obliquely critique the regime by portraying a city inhabited by anthropomorphic creatures. While «Mutants» reflects on the surrounding environment, «Illusion of Freedom» ponders the challenges one faces trying to change one’s mindset. The exhibition concludes with a section titled «Creative Laboratory». Displayed here are Yankilevsky’s studies, sketches and automatic drawings. The mysterious creatures and «cosmic bodies» featured in the latter would emerge when the artist’s mind was drifting elsewhere. The self-contained world depicted in these sheets is now unveiled to the public for the first time.

With no exhibitions comparable in scale and depth held in Russia for the past ten years the «Mystery of Being» is an important event for Moscow audiences and a continuation of MMOMA’s program dedicated to studying prominent Russian artists.

Vladimir Yankilevsky was born in Moscow in 1938. He took his first drawing classes from his father, artist Boris Yankilevsky. In 1956 Yankilevsky graduated from the Moscow Art School at the Surikov Institute of Art and in 1962 received a degree from the Moscow Institute of Printed Arts. As an artist and designer he collaborated with various Moscow publishing houses such as «Goslitizdat», «Znanie», «Iskusstvo», «Mir», «Nauka», «Kniga», and «NLO». He participated in the Sretensky Boulevard Group.

Yankilevsky had more than 40 solo exhibitions. His works were shown at numerous group exhibitions including «RUSSIA!» held in the Guggenheim museum in New York. His works are in public collections including the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow; the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; the Moscow Museum of Modern Art; the State Russian Museum, St Petersburg; the Center Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Zimmerli Art Museum, New Jersey. Vladimir Yankilevsky passed away on January 4, 2018.


Curators: Lyudmila Andreeva, Olga Turchina, Vladimir Prokhorov
Exhibition Design: Alexey Podkidyshev



du 2 mars au 29 avril 2018


Copyright Galerie Dina Vierny 2017