This exhibition focuses on artist Geli Korzhev’s portrayals of strange and disturbing creatures who embody his prophetic vision of Russia’s dystopian future, foretold thirty years ago. The Tiurliki (Mutant) series was painted in the late 1980s – early 1990s, during the unstable and uncertain time of the fall of the Soviet Union. This series was never quite understood by his contemporaries, who blamed the artist for being retrograde, resistant to change, and pro-Communist. These uncanny works manifest their latent content only today, when a militarized Russia is mutating into a despotic repressive regime, a society in the hands of a corrupt and very powerful few.
The series was begun in the mid-1980s, as a fantasy sequence for the artist’s grandson, eventually morphing into a unique political statement. Korzhev did not welcome the end of the Soviet Union. The artist explains, “The ‘Tiurlikis’ did reflect many of the changes in our society that happened during and after perestroika. […] Our country is being occupied by spiritual enemies. Behind a civilized appearance, one can see a beast full of hate.”
Korzhev refused to accept awards from the government of post-Soviet Russia, explaining that accepting a state award would be hypocritical because the new social order contradicted his principles.
The exhibition also includes Korzhev’s earlier works and paintings by other important artists of the Soviet era including Igor Popov, Alexei Gritsai, and others.
Premonition of a Russian Dystopia is on view in the Main Gallery March 4 – July 9, 2023.
Geli M. Korzhev, 1925 – 2012
The Fight, 1987
Oil on canvas
Private American Collection