Insight

AVANT-GARDE LABORATORY. COSMIC KOSAREV & CARNIVAL KHARKOV

AVANT-GARDE LABORATORY

COSMIC KOSAREV & CARNIVAL KHARKOV

James Butterwick progresses to Stand 725 at this year’s TEFAF Maastricht (March 10-18) with a unique ensemble of works by the Ukrainian artist Boris Kosarev (1897-1994). The Kharkov Laboratory 1918-1929 focuses on Kosarev’s early career as a leading light of the Kharkov Avant-Garde, seeking to create ‘a new culture’ in a range of media from pencil and watercolour to collage and photography.

The eleven collages date from 1921-23, when materials were scarce and cardboard like gold-dust. A Cubist Guitar with watercolour highlights reflects Kosarev’s passion for Picasso, alongside still lifes, Suprematist compositions and psychedelic mask designs for a play about tribal oppression.

The works in pencil sway from the mordant irony of Communalka (1921) to the nostalgic escapism of Village Pastoral (1927). Watercolours include a 1922 design for the cover of the magazine Vesna (Spring) and an illustration for Velimir Khlebnikov’s poem The Wood Nymph. The two met in 1918 at the Sinyakova dacha south of Kharkov. The cosmic mood of Kosarev’s picture evokes both William Blake and the art of their hostess Maria Sinyakova – who will also be represented by three watercolours at TEFAF.

Finally, vintage prints from his series on bustling Sorochinsky Market reveal Kosarev’s skill as a photographer. Nadezhda Kosareva, writing in the 56-page full-colour catalogue, reveals that her father remembered the ’20s as a ‘carnival era’… soon to be crushed by the steel fist of Stalinism.

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