November 11, 2004 by AK

“Soviet” Russian art: Lianozovo

I have claimed that, in the last decades of Communist rule, only underground visual artists produced work of lasting value. Of these artists, the two I would name first are Anatoly Zverev (1931–1986) and Oskar Rabin (Oscar Rabine, b. 1928). I have seen a few dozen of Zverev’s paintings. His work is amazing (I especially prefer his flowers, but the best known are his portraits), but it does not withstand well being transferred to paper or screen. The charm seems to vanish even in high-quality reproductions. Many of his paintings are actually three-dimensional, with ridges and hills of paint — that could be one of the reasons why.

Yet Rabin’s paitings suffer less, the way I see them, from such transfers. The artist has lived in Paris since 1978; he is quite successful, the city and its environs being his principal subjects. But back in the 1950s and the 1960s, Rabin was the leader of a bunch of young, talented, nonconformists Soviet painters known as the Lianozovo group. Judging by the images they produced, Lianozovo was then a gloomy, barrack-dominated faubourg of Moscow; it is now a standardized residential area within the city limit. Accordingly, some take Rabin’s early paitings for manifestations of gloom and despair; I see sweetness in hope in them.

So far, I’ve dug up only four links to the early Rabin: A Barrack in Lianozovo (1955); The Sleeping Doll; A Church Reflected (1966); The Drunk Doll (1972).

I nearly forgot to mention that Rabin was one of the artists of the 1974 “bulldozer” — that is, bulldozed — exhibition. More details on request, as usual.

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