The Reina Sofía Museum is opening an exhibition on Russian avant-garde art from 1914 to 1924: about 250 works including paintings, collages, illustrations, films and publications by a great number of Russian artists.
This exhibition explores Russian avant-garde art through the perspective of the Anti-art canons associated with the international Dada movement. The anti-academic work of Kazimir Malevich to eclipse classical art and the transrational language experiments (zaum) of Velimir Khlebnikov and Aleksei Kruchenykh are just some of the early contributions which substantiate the reasoning behind this show.
The selected works reveal the intentions of many artists to take part in projects of public unrest with connotations in close proximity to Marxism and to adopt rejection, irony, the absurd and chance as the basic principles underpinning their artistic manifestations. Extravagant performances, anti-war campaigns, a rejection of classical art and an innovative way of fusing the visual and the verbal are some of the common traits between the Russian avant-garde and the international Dada movement. In seeking to create an aesthetic paradigm as an alternative to positivist Constructivism and metaphysical Supermatism, the Russian affirmation da, da (yes, yes) thus became the negation net, net (no, no).
The exhibition is divided into different sections and opens with one of the first operas of the absurd in the zaum language, the influential Victory Over the Sun (1913), which featured the participation of Kruchenykh, Khlebnikov, Malevich, and others. This first part focuses on ‘alogical’ abstraction, far removed from geometry and music and developed through collage, readymades and publications. The second section spans the period from 1917 to 1924, from the victory of the Russian Revolution to the death of Vladímir Lenin, who frequented Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, shining a light on the revolutionary themes and notions around Internationalism. The final section explores the connections between Russia and two of the main Dada centres, Paris and Berlin, manifested through the publications of Russian works in the two aforementioned cities and the presence of artists like Lissitsky in Berlin, and Sergei Sharshun and Ilia Zdanevich in Paris.