Masters of Russian Realism from the Collection of Wayne Yakes

Masters of Russian Realism

This exhibition brings together the work of four Soviet-born artists which span the communist and post-communist worlds. Trained in the exacting style of Soviet Realism that dominated the soviet art academies, each of these artists looked to the West to find a post-communist approach to contemporary realist painting. Drawing from modernism, Pop Art, illustration and conceptual art, each artist has freely explored a variety of approaches and found their own path through the post-communist Russian cultural diaspora.

These works are drawn from the extensive personal collection of global art assembled by the noted vascular surgeon, Wayne Yakes of Denver, Colorado.

Oleg Vassiliev
1931 -2013

One of the most celebrated artists and illustrators of his generation, Vassiliev’s career spanned the Second World War and the demise of the U.S.S.R. He studied painting and illustration at the V.I. Surikov State Art Institute and was one of the founders of the “unofficial” art movement of the 1960s and 70s. For 33 years, he illustrated children’s books in partnership with Erik Bulatov (who’s portrait is included in this exhibition) and developed a highly-personal painting style, based on his scientific studies of energy, light, and space. His work is an important bridge between traditional soviet realism, the modernist avant-garde, and contemporary conceptual realism.

Genia Chef

b. 1954

Genia Chef is an example of a post-soviet global artist. Born in Aktjubinsk, Kazakhstan, U.S.S.R., he studied at the Polygraphic Institute in Moscow in the mid-1970s and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria, from 1988 to 1993. An example of an international post-soviet artist, Chef emigrated to Europe in 1985 and to New York City in 1983. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

Chef’s style, although groomed in the Soviet Realism of the academy, is influenced by Pop Art and illustration. He has illustrated a range of books, including works by Poe, Michael Lederer, and his own Finger World, published in Germany in 1993. The works in this exhibition encompass a range of styles and influences from 2006 to the present.

Komar and Melamid
Vitaly Komar, b. 1943
Alexander Melamid, b. 1945

Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid enjoyed a dynamic artistic partnership that lasted from 1972 to 2003. Born in Moscow, both artists studied at the Stroganov Institute of Art and Design and soon made a name for themselves as dissident artists. In 1974, their provocative work was destroyed by Soviet authorities and they were expelled from the youth section of the Moscow Union of Artists in 1975. They were among the first Soviet-born artists to make a place for themselves in the West and immigrated to New York City in 1978.

Their iconoclastic approach navigates through realism, performance, and installation and is grounded in conceptual art. Their work made a significant contribution to the development of postmodern art in America.