Pavel Leonov: Through the Looking-Glass
Russian Explorers near Africa, 1970
Oil on cardboard
62× 84 cm
Oil on canvas
145 × 100 cm
Oil on canvas
97 × 71 cm
Spring in the Far North, 1992
Oil on canvas
97 × 158 cm
Self-portrait (?), 1998
Oil on canvas mounted on fiberboard
70 × 51 cm
Date: OCTOBER 14, 2020 — FEBRUARY 7, 2021
Venue: MMOMA, PETROVKA, 25
Curators: Ludmila Andreyeva, Nina Lavrishcheva, Vladimir Prokhorov
The Moscow Museum of Modern Art presents Pavel Leonov: Through the Looking Glass, a retrospective exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of the artist.
Pavel Leonov is one of the leading figures among the Russian self-taught painters. His works won international acclaim and in 1984 his name was included in the World Encyclopedia of Naive Art. The exposition features works from the state and private collections in Moscow and other Russian regions, which broadly cover the main themes and periods in Leonov’s work — from his first attempts in painting to the works made in the last years of his life.
Even though Leonov received wide recognition in his later years, throughout the most of his career the artist did not belong to the professional art scene. Leonov was not familiar with the works of other artists, was not privy to the laws of classical fine arts and never tried to follow the school rules of drawing, composition and color in his practice. That is why it is so difficult to understand why Leonov’s extraordinary imagery touches the viewer so deeply. Leonov’s art is closely connected with the rich folk tradition. It can be found in the themes of his paintings, in their attributes and symbols, in the depiction of human faces which resemble masks. It is also apparent in his colors which are of intrinsic value to each composition and yet define Leonov’s artistic individuality.
All the works of Pavel Leonov are essentially autobiographical. Events from his personal life story are captured in each painting. The picturesque canvases, large and small, depict subjects still vivid in the author’s memory, impressions, historic events, past life situations. The cycles of paintings reproduce collisions in the artist’s uneasy life path, arranging them as a myth, a dream of a better age, a timeless utopia instead of a consistent and accurate narrative.
Pavel Leonov’s works were discovered over 30 years ago and are now part of art history and can be found in state museums and extensive private collections. His paintings have various connotations within the contemporary art context being closely connected to the decline of the Soviet myth and the beginning of the post-Soviet history. Leonov’s unique imagery has inspired nowadays animators and filmmakers, while his artistic vocabulary has influenced contemporary authors in various arts and genres.
The exhibition displays works from the collection of the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, private collections, Kovcheg and Roza Azora art galleries, the Museum of Russian Lubok and Naive Art, The Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-Reserve of Art, History and Architecture, the Ivanovo Folk Arts Center and the Ivanovo Regional Art Museum.
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