Russian

Webster Hall

Scope and Content Note

Alexei Remizov Albums and Suplementary Materials

1921-1940's

 

There are 70 art works in the collection, plus 19 albums containing approximately 80 works, a number of other samples of calligraphy and handwriting, mementos and photos.

From "The writer as artist" By Greta Slobin

The Thomas P. Whitney Collection offers a representative sample of Remizov's graphic art, preserved in albums and drawings dating from 1921 in Berlin through the late forties in Paris. It includes the following remizovian genres: hand illustrated and handwritten books; portraits of contemporaries from the album "Theatre"; works he called "non-figurative" ("bespredmetnye"); line drawings of the characters from his tales; charters ("gramoty") given to members of the Great Free Order of the Apes; samples of different styles of calligraphy, including glagolitic lettering, book inscriptions, letters with drawings.

Although each album is unique, copies of some drawings appear in more than one album (the "Kourinas" creature in the album of that name and in "Wolf-Omnivore" ("Volk-Samoglot"), the M. Slonimsky portrait from the "Music Teacher" ("Uchitel' muzyki") series and in the "Theatre" album). This parallels Remizov's habit of printing variant versions of texts in various collections. The drawings were all done on paper, using India ink, sometimes with colored ink and pencils, or watercolors. Even when the drawings tend towards abstraction, as in "The Hare," or when they are extremely stylized, they retain figurative value. The exception are the non-figurative geometric collages which he called "constructions." Remizov's favorite method of composition throughout is that of collage, a technique of gluing superimposed multiple layers of paper, with frames or borders defining each drawing and the drawing itself.

In the context of the avant-garde, the deliberate play with frames draws attention to the material and the status of the work as an art object. Similar emphasis is obtained through self-reference, such as the already mentioned use of repeated versions of a drawing, recurrent self-portraits, and the prominent signatures. The portrait may be hand-drawn or mechanically reproduced, with hand-drawn frame, to create a "unique" object as in "Urs." It may also appear as a small detail-signature as in the right hand corner of "The Silver Chalice," from the album "The Sun and the Moon" ("Solntse i mesiats"). The covers of the albums are usually made of plain stock paper, or brown wrapping paper ("Theatre"), not unlike that of the futurist books. The paper provides a striking contrast to the ornamental quality of the album contents.

Remizov's art displays a remarkable range of styles reminiscent of the artistic currents of his formative years, including early Scandinavian and German expressionists like Munch and Nolde; Art Nouveau ornament and Jugendstil woodcuts; the Blaue Reiter style of early Kandinsky. Hence his predilection for fantastic, distorted, fragmented and non-figurative images, as well as for the folk motif and ornamentation. Remizov was clearly concerned with the importance of the line and with its special role "not only as an ornament, or as a necessary constructive element," but also "as the expression, as graphic sign, as gesture of a thought or feeling…" Remizov's comment on the source of color in his geometric abstractions as stemming from an early memory of his nanny's quilt was strikingly close to Kandinsky's Reminiscences.

 

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