S E P T E M B E R 21, 2013
Practically every artist has a certain color gamut, a set of colors that he/she uses most actively, which enables art critics to speak of the characteristic harmony and color combinations of one artist or another. Thus, everybody is familiar with Picasso’s Blue or Rose period. This is not to say that the artist transfers once-found color harmony from one work into another day after day – simply certain color combinations strike a familiar chord for one reason or another.
Much is associated with the red color and the word “red” in Russia. Russian proverbs and sayings brim with mentions of “red”, which is often used figuratively and which foreigners find hard to understand. The situation is slightly easier in art – red means red and not blue or yellow. However, the artist Alexander Maximov was very fond of red precisely for its figurative meaning and treated it as if he were a pagan. The artist Alexander Livanov, who knew Maximov well, recalled, “…He had a tattered red sweater, all frayed below! Sasha believed that the so-called Russian gamut was made of red, green and white. And he wore his red sweater, as if it were armor.” Indeed, red has fairly long occupied a key position in Russian art. In Maximov’s works this color looked especially festive in some cases and alarming or even downright dramatic in other. The artist painstakingly studied the tonality of red and the different degree of its impact depending on the size of the spot, the thickness of a concrete line done in red.
Here are but a few examples of the so-called homework when the artist tried to find some philosopher’s (needless to say, pictorial) stone formula in continuously repeated spots and lines. He immediately used his newly-found solutions in concrete works.
And here is already an attempt to combine red space with a representation of a glass of water, a linear solution found earlier. It is obvious that Maximov had scrupulously studied the plastic schemes of Petrov-Vodkin.
It is noteworthy that different epochs and styles constantly interpenetrate each other in Maximov’s works. There is but a thin line between his realistic drawing and abstraction. Maximov not only quickly shifted from one style to another, but easily moved from the past into the future and back. When he studied Russian iconography, he went from drawing images of saints to representations of virtually aliens. Just as naturally and easily he portrayed his contemporaries in the Russian lubok style. He also frequently observed something new and unexpected in well-known motifs and things.
Maximov had a knack of putting together subjects and things that don’t mix easily. Here is, for instance, an attempt to wed modern motifs to traditional techniques of Russian folk art.
Below is an absolutely amazing work with an unexpected parallel “shift” from a linear drawing to a color spot. A quote from the artist’s archive “Shape is the Core of Russian Style” comes to mind here: the black line is responsible for the “shape” of the representation and the red color for its “soul”.
Maximov again became absorbed in experimenting with the plastic use of spots and lines and with red as the carrier of a certain “emotional charge”.
Whatever he found he immediately used in his “narrative” sheets.
I have intentionally reproduced several works of Maximov without any comment. Just take a note how these pieces done more than fifty years ago are so relevant plastically and stylistically today. To be up-to-date at any time is a hallmark of truly great art.