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Alexander Gassel: Rediscovering the Past
New Exhibition: On View through October 5, 2013
The Museum is pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings by artist and designer, Alexander (Sasha) Gassel. Born in Moscow, USSR in 1947, Gassel graduated from Moscow Institute of Arts and Graphics in 1970 with an MFA. From the late 1960s to 1980, he worked at the Grabar Center for the Restoration and Preservation of Art in Moscow, restoring and copying medieval tempera paintings and collecting and assessing icons that were being removed from churches across Russia and brought to Moscow for conservation and display.
In the 60s, young Russian artists began to rediscover the artists of their forbidden past. A new generation of nonconformist artists appeared. Alexander Gassel was one of them.
Alexander Gassel recalls seeing 20th century, avant-garde art for the first time while working for the Grabar Institute. Art Nouveau, Deco and stylistic European trends were not disseminated during the Soviet era. Gassel found the works of artists such as Chagall and Malevich hidden in the storage areas of Soviet museums. They were a stunning revelation. For Gassel, the line between new and traditional arts became blurred. He combined his knowledge of iconography with this new modern vision. However, modern religious art was absolutely forbidden in the USSR and Gassel could not show his work even when other artists of nonconformist art began to be shown.
Gassel’s style evolved as much from early icon painting as from 20th Russian masters like Erte, Chagall, Kandinsky and the complex formal structures of Kazimir Malevich—all integrated to generate a highly sophisticated, distinctive style that is unique—yet typically Russian. He creates his paintings—mainly, personal interpretations of Biblical events—using traditional and ancient techniques learned from observation and also through his conservation training. The ability to blend the avant-garde with traditional Russian iconography—has become the hallmark of Gassel’s extraordinarily vivid, compelling and lively art.
Gassel immigrated to the USA from the Soviet Union in 1980.
Based on traditional Russian artistic values, Gassel’s new paintings often engage a surrealistic combination of details from different civilizations. Ancient symbols are joined with contemporary subjects and reflect his evolving experience of life in America.
Click on the thumbnails to see enlargements of selected works in the exhibition.
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