James Butterwick debuts at TEFAF New York (Stand 89) with an array of colorful yet poignant works from the Russian and Ukrainain Avant-Garde (Park Avenue Armory, May 4-8).
Russian giants Wassily Kandinsky, Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov feature with early works that pre-date their departure into western exile. Representing those who stayed behind: Aristarkh Lentulov’s By the Sea (1915) and Alexander Volkov’s Oriental Fantasy (1918), produced at the height of their powers. Boris Kustodiev’s final work, On the Riverbank (1927), shows a young couple lolling on the grass, dreaming of Communist paradise.
Ukraine’s Alexander Arkhipenko fled to New York – acquiring American citizenship in 1929 – soon after creating the rare Still Life that Butterwick will bring to New York. Anatoly Petritsky, on the other hand, exchanged the creative freedom of his 1928 Turandot costume for Socialist Realism and Stalin Prizes. Vasily Yermilov refused compromise but was accused of Formalism and expelled from the Artists’ Union soon after his 1934 Design for a Recreation Room in the Kharkov Palace of Pioneers. The Palace was destroyed by the Nazis.
Kharkov’s little-known genius Maria Sinyakova – whose Tree of Life (1914) and Carousel (1916) stand comparison with neo-Primitivist Goncharova – was later accused of ‘grovelling before Western art’ and reduced to painting toys. Alexander Bogomazov – subject of a landmark retrospective in Kiev this fall – will be represented by Rolling the Logs, a watercolour sketch for his epic triptych Sawyers, and by a mesmerizing portrait of his daughter Yaroslava, both produced just two years before his death from tuberculosis in 1930, aged fifty. The decade that followed saw State-sponsored famine in Ukraine and, across the USSR, political purges and the end of artistic freedom.