Oleg Vassiliev, Russian (1931 - )

Born in Moscow in 1931, Vassiliev is one of the most important artists to emerge from behind the iron curtain. His artistic ideologies long ran counter to the State-espoused modes of Socialist Realism; Vassiliev took his influence from the first generation of 20th century Russian avant-garde artists who had overturned the stultifying conventions of the past.

Early in his career Vassiliev supported himself primarily as a book illustrator, while in his personal work he employed modes of expression similar to those practiced by Picasso, Cézanne, Degas, Matisse, Rothko, and Pollock. As a member of the Russian Underground, Vassiliev practiced largely in secrecy, and like many of his generation of artists who lived and worked under the restrictive thumb of Soviet censorship, Vassiliev left Russia after the end of the cold war, relocating to New York City in 1990.

The body of drawings presented at Forum Gallery explores how memory is re-created and re-conceived. Through Vassiliev’s concise imagery and skilled hand, he shares and revisits the occasions of his life in Russia and the United States. Like looking through a scrapbook, we watch as the characters grow and change. Author and critic Francine Prose, in her essay for the exhibition catalogue, states: To look at Oleg Vassiliev's work is to experience one déjà vu after another. And we are left with pleasurable melancholy that may remind us of how we feel when we reach the minor-key, unresolved ending of a Chekov short story, or when we hear the sound of the breaking string interrupting The Cherry Orchard."

Vassiliev attended art school with friends Ilya Kabakov and Eric Bulatov, and graduated from V.I. Surikov State Art Institute in Moscow, where he specialized in graphics. Today Vassiliev’s work is recognized for its important location in art history and within Russian art history specifically. His work has been a part of many major international exhibitions, and he is the recipient of two Pollock-Krasner Foundation grants as well as the 1999 Liberty Prize. Vassiliev’s works reside in the collections of The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; The State Center of Contemporary Art, Moscow; The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; Denver Art Museum, Colorado; Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina; The Ludwig Collection, Aachen, Germany; Dresden Staatliche Kunst Gallery, Germany; Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland; and the Norsk-Russisk Kultursenter Galleri, Kirkenes, Norway.

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