The second annual Russian and Ukrainian Painting Exhibition at the Silvana Gallery in Glendale consists of more than 100 paintings that retain techniques of the first generation of rebellious Russian Impressionists.
The same turgid brushwork, out-of-tube pigment and other elements that once disguised the meanings in propagandistic art are used here by a new generation for narratives of life, architecture and landscape.
Subject matter for this second generation of Russian and Ukrainian impressionists celebrates the life and land of the common people, no longer because Soviet sensors have secrets, but because after Perestroika in the 1990s, they have the freedom to choose the content in their work. No more politics — just nature and humanity.
Russian artists had been sheltered from influences of western modernist painting from 1930 to 1980. Because of Soviet isolationism, the post-Perestroika second generation of artists had a foundation unique to western Impressionism. Although there is a shared tendency for motion, light and abandonment of line, the Russian Impressionists have distinctly aggressive and committed brush strokes without contrivance, unlike the controlled dabbing and patterning of strokes by Westerners.
Of the many good artists represented in the show, Ruslan Ivashenko demonstrates polish, confidence and consistency with three paintings that teeter on abstraction.
His “Mountain Bakhchisarai” (oil on canvas) was inspired by the Bakhchisarai village in southern Crimea, nestled into the foothills of the Bakhchisarai Mountains: A village road pulls the viewer to a cluster of small buildings, as splashes of color across a predominantly pale scene imply landscape, surrounded by gray mountains.
Brown strokes indicate a closed gate and a lonely spot of red, a stop sign, only compound the coolness of the image.
Another oil painting by Ivashenko, “At the End of Winter,” depicts the revival of a village as rooftops, fence posts and rocky piles emerge from an icy blue and white winter crust.
Once again Ivashenko draws the viewer in with perspective, leading through chunks of glistening snow and gradient white to the upper third of the canvas where the architecture takes over. The scene is only fully revealed when one steps back.
Ivashenko departs from all things cold and wintry in his oil painting “Watering Place.” Coarse rendering spills black, white and brown cattle down a hill, overgrown with greenery, charging toward the viewer.
It stops just in time to drink in the blue pond with disturbed reflections in the foreground. Indications of herdsmen with small patches of primary red and yellow break up the earthy palette. This is a more literal, painterly piece, and it is vibrant, fun and well executed.
Because of the genre's virtual invisibility until the last two decades, it is uncommon to have the work of so many Russian and Ukrainian Impressionists in one place. Silvana Gallery has once again executed an uncommonly good show of uncommon art, with many fine paintings.
TERRI MARTIN is an art historian and contributor to Marquee.
Second annual Exhibition of Russian & Ukrainian Impressionism
Where: Silvana Gallery, 1731 W. Glenoaks Blvd., Suite 200, Glendale, 91202.
When: Through Aug. 18. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Info: (818) 662-7070, (818) 395-0313; or www.silvanagallery.com