Titled “The Knight of Social Consciousness ~ Geli Korzhev: 20th Century Russian Realist,” exhibition is TMORA’s first to feature work of a single artist
MINNEAPOLIS (May 15, 2007) – The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) today announces “The Knight of Social Consciousness ~ Geli Korzhev: 20th Century Russian Realist,” America’s first solo exhibition of Geli Mikhailovich Korzhev (1925-present) paintings. Scheduled to open Monday, Sept. 10, this also will be TMORA’s first exhibition ever to feature the work of a single artist.
The exhibition is a joint curatorial effort incorporating the perspectives of art historians from the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, and the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, the two largest museum institutions in Russia. Russian art historians recognize Korzhev among those who substantially influenced the entire post-WWII generation of Russian realist artists.
On display through Jan. 5, 2008, the new exhibition includes 58 paintings from throughout Korzhev’s remarkable career, and marks the first and only complete showing of these works outside of Russia. Examples of Korzhev paintings previously have been exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. TMORA’s position as the only museum of Russian art in the United States qualifies it to present this exclusive career retrospective exhibition in the Twin Cities. After completing its run at TMORA, the exhibition is scheduled to travel to the State Russian Museum and the State Tretyakov Gallery. “The Knight of Social Consciousness” firmly establishes TMORA as an internationally respected resource for Russian historical and artistic projects.
“TMORA is honored to host America’s first Geli Korzhev solo exhibition – one of the most ambitious exhibitions ever on display at our museum,” said Judi Dutcher, TMORA president and director. “’The Knight of Social Consciousness’ will introduce visitors to a comprehensive body of work from a single artist who, in the United States and Western Europe, has emerged from the artistic obscurity created by the cultural isolation of Russian art during the Cold War era.”
As a senior member of the first generation of Russians to have been born and raised under Communist rule, Korzhev, while never a party member, has been a life-long supporter of the Communist system. His evocative and majestic paintings reflect his views of the relationship between humanity and the hardships and sacrifices that are inherent to life and the human condition. Korzhev also powerfully depicts the sometimes symbiotic and often contradictory relationship between the individual citizen and collective state.
The imagery of the classic novel of Don Quixote (“The Knight of the Doleful Countenance”) is a traditional favorite in Russian society, and Korzhev devoted a significant series of his paintings to this subject during the 1980s and 90s as the spirit of perestroika led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Born in 1925 in the Moscow area, Korzhev experienced the privations and personal dangers of the Great Patriotic War as a teenager. He subsequently began his artistic training at the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow, graduating in 1950. Korzhev entered the Russian art community at a time when the people and government of the Soviet Union simultaneously celebrated Russia’s emergence as an international superpower and grieved the tremendous personal and societal costs sustained by the war that facilitated this newfound role. These are recurring themes in Korzhev’s early career paintings.
In reference to Soviet artists of the 1940s and 50s, British scholar Matthew Cullerne Bown notes “some of these painters maintained a consistently high level of achievement; but the major figure I consider to have achieved the creative renewal and transformation of principles of socialist realism, is Geli Korzhev.”(1)
“The Knight of Social Consciousness” will include works from the TMORA permanent collection, paintings borrowed from several American private collections and, significantly, a total of 16 major works on loan to TMORA from the State Tretyakov Gallery and the State Russian Museum.
TMORA will publish a comprehensive English language catalog in support of the exhibition and is developing a series of public seminars and lectures to help American museum visitors understand the unique cultural context of the Soviet Union in which Korzhev’s paintings were created. Exhibition details will be published at www.tmora.org as they become available.
About The Museum of Russian Art
The Museum of Russian Art, a non-profit, educational institution, is the only museum in the United States dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of 20th century Russian art and artifacts.