MOSCOW – Legendary Russian moviemaker Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) meets 14 Soviet Nonconformist painters in an intense dialogue that explores the freedom of creation through moving images, music and the visual arts at a new venue in the New Tretyakov Gallery.
“Free Flight” is a collaborative project between the AZ Museum and the State Tretyakov Gallery that celebrates the legacy of Tarkovsky and the Soviet Noncomformist visual artists from the 1960s to the 1980s through a trilogy of past shows.
“The essence of this project is the internal freedom of creation that allowed a unison between Tarkovsky’s cinema with the work of unofficial painters of the second half of the 20th century,” Natalia Opaleva, the producer of the show, told EFE.
The exhibition includes works by Dmitri Plavinsky (1937-2012), Pyotr Belenok (1938-1991), Anatoli Zverev (1931-1986) and Francisco Infante (1943), among others.
Even though the artists featured in the show never crossed paths with the famed director, they shared many similarities, ideas and themes.
They were deeply misunderstood and harassed by Soviet authorities who did not accept expressions of art that went beyond socialist realism.
One of the saddest and most shameful stories of that dark period was the so-called “Bulldozer Exhibition,” an unofficial street show of abstract artists that took place in Moscow’s urban forest in September 1974.
The show was violently broken up by the police and international backlash ensued.
“Many of the artists had to emigrate from the Soviet Union after this and when we were preparing this exhibition, we acquired a bulldozer that was decorated with graffiti and flags of the countries where these painters marched,” the producer added.
For Opaleva, the installation is a metaphor of art’s power to prevail during difficult times.
“Many years have passed and they are here, they are alive, they are in this exhibition and that is the most important thing,” she said.
A moody installation made up of a huge multimedia piece that combines Tarkovsky movie screen-shots with pictures of some of the featured painters’ works mesmerizes the crowd with soundtracks from the Russian director’s films.
The exhibition, divided into three thematic areas, opens with “Breakthrough into the past,” originally shown at the State Theater of Nations in 2017.
Photograms and projections of the expansive drama “Andrei Rublev” (1978) mingle with etchings by Dmitri Plavinsky of destroyed churches and ancient symbols, a nod to the work of Albrecht Dürer (printmaker from the German Renaissance).
“This is an aesthetic that is very close to Tarkovsky’s films,” Opaleva said.
Opaleva, who is also director of the Anatoly Zverev Museum, said that the work of the famous Russian director is very close to the visual arts, since his films have very long shots, in which “each frame is a painting in itself, everything is very well thought out, everything is very harmonious.”
The second part of the exhibition, “Foresight,” which was shown at the Stanislavsky Electrotheater in 2016, brings together the sci-fi mystery “Stalker” (1979) with the works of Pyotr Belenok, born near Chernobyl.
This section makes a reference to “the century of catastrophes, of major events, cataclysms, tragedies,” Opaleva continued.
“This project was exhibited on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, and it is amazing how both Belenok in his works and Tarkovsky in ‘Stalker’ visually predicted the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe between five and ten years before it happened,” the producer added.
The section includes a set of photographs by Viktoria Ivleva, the only photographer in the world who descended with a scuba suit to the fourth destroyed reactor after the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
“We show these photos and compare them with some frames of ‘Stalker,’ and it gives the impression that it is the same place and the same moment, although 14 years separate them,” she said.
The third part of the exhibition, a re-run of “The New Flight to Solaris” which was originally exhibited at the Franco Zeffirelli Foundation in Florence and the Royal Villa of Monza in 2018, is awe inspiring.
Viewers walk into the spacecraft that appeared on the critically acclaimed sci-fi masterpiece “Solaris” (1972).
The shuttle has been adorned with the works of 12 anti-Soviet painters.
As viewers peer through the hatches the works appear to move, as if they had come alive on the surface of the imaginary planet featured in the movie.
The spacecraft showcases the most representative artists of that generation, including the colorful faces by Oleg Tselkov (1934), the abstract and brightly colored canvasses of French-Russian Lidiya Masterkova (1927-2008) and Vladimir Nemukhin (1925-2016).
The whole ensemble is linked by video installations, created by Plato Infante, son of Francisco Infante, who stood out for the realization of kinetic installations in open spaces at the end of the sixties and abstract works that follow the traditions of the Russian avant-garde, especially Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin.