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Avant-Garde Art in Ukraine 1910–1930 Contested M e mo r y Avant-Garde Art in Ukraine 1910–1930 Cont e s t e d M em o r y M YR O SLAV SHKAN D RIJ BOSTON 2019 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Shkandrij, Myroslav, 1950- author. Title: Avant-garde art in Ukraine, 1910-1930 : contested memory / Myroslav Shkandrij. Description: Boston : Academic Studies Press, 2019. | Includes bibliographical references. Identifiers: LCCN 2018058734 (print) | LCCN 2018061401 (ebook) | ISBN 9781618119766 (ebook) | ISBN 9781618119759 (hardcover) Subjects: LCSH: Art, Ukrainian–20th century. | Avant-garde (Aesthetics)–Ukraine–History–20th century. Classification: LCC N7255.U47 (ebook) | LCC N7255.U47 S55 2019 (print) | DDC 700.9477/09041–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018058734 Copyright © 2018 Academic Studies Press All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-61811-975-9 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-61811-976-6 (ebook) Book design by Lapiz Digital Services. Cover design by Ivan Grave. Shevchenko Day, On the cover Mykhailo Boichuk (attributed). 1920. Published by Academic Studies Press 1577 Beacon St. Brookline, MA, 02446, USA press@academicstudiespress.com www.academicstudiespress.com Acknowledgments The author gratefully acknowledges the following: Zorya Fine Art Gallery for permission to reproduce a modified version of “Kyiv to Paris: Ukrainian Art in the European Avant-Garde, 1910– 30,” which appeared in 2005 on the Zorya Fine Art website at http://www. zoryafineart.com/publications/view/11. The Ukrainian Museum in New York for permission to reproduce material from Propaganda and Slogans: The Political Poster in Soviet Ukraine, 1919–1921 (2013). The posters in the above publication were Drive Off donated to the Museum by D. Jurij Rybak and Anna Ortynsky: the Kulaks Ivan Franko Shevchenko Day Peasant, (page 32), (42), (44), the Worker Has Joined the Red Army (46), First Aid for the Wounded (50), Comrade Peasants! Hand in Your Grain Tax (60), and The Hungry Await Help (64). The Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada for permission to reprint with modifications “Jews in the Artistic and Cultural Life Jewish Life and Times: A of Ukraine in the 1920s,” which appeared in Collection of Essays, Vol. 9, edited by Dan Stone and Annalee Greenberg, 85–99 (Winnipeg: Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, 2009). The University of Toronto Press for allowing me to reprint a shortened and modified form of “Politics and the Ukrainian Avant-Garde,” which appeared in Modernism in Kyiv: Jubilant Experimentation, edited by Irena (Toronto: R. Makaryk and Virlana Tkacz, 219–97 University of Toronto Press, 2010). East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies for permission to reproduce material from “The Steppe as Inspiration in David Burliuk’s Art,” Journal of Ukrainian Studies 30.2 (2005): 51–67. Indiana University Press for permission to reprint parts of the article “National Modernism in Post-Revolutionary Society: The Ukrainian Renaissance and Jewish Revival, 1917–1930,” which first appeared in Shatterzones of Empire: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, vi Acknowledgments Russian, and Ottoman Borderlands, 238–48, edited by Omer Bartov and Eric D. Weitz, 2013. Mary Holt Burliuk and the Winnipeg Art Gallery for permission to reproduce David Burliuk’s works and photographs from her family collection. Brigitta Vadimovna Vetrova for permission to reproduce photographs and works by Nina Henke and Vadym Meller from her family collection, and Nina Vetrova-Robinson for permission to reproduce Carnival from her family collection. The National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kyiv and the Lviv National Art Gallery for permission to reproduce Mykhailo Boichuk’s photograph and works. Contents Acknowledgements#8;v Introduction: The “Historic” Avant-Garde of 1910–30#8; xi Forging the European Connection#8; 1 1.  Kyiv to Paris: Ukrainian Art in the European Avant-Garde, 1910–30 #8; 3 Politics and Painting#8; 23 2.  Politics and the Ukrainian Avant-Garde #8; 25 3.  Political Posters 1919–21 and the Boichuk School #8; 38 4.  Jews in the Artistic and Cultural Life of Ukraine in the 1920s #8; 56 5. #7; National Modernism in Post-Revolutionary Society: Ukrainian Renaissance and Jewish Revival, 1917–30 #8; 67 Artists in the Maelstrom: Five Case Studies#8; 79 6.  David Burliuk and Steppe as Avant-Garde Identity #8; 81 7.  Kazimir Malevich’s Autobiography and Art #8; 102 8.  Vadym Meller and Sources of Inspiration in Theater Art #8; 116 9.  Ivan Kavaleridze’s Contested Identity #8; 135 Enthusiasm, 10.  Dziga Vertov’s Kharkiv and Cultural Revolution #8; 149 The Avant-Garde in Today’s Cultural Memory#8; 163 11.  Remembering the Avant-Garde#8; 165 Bibliography#8;169 Index#8;178 List of Illustrations 1. Mykhailo Boichuk (attributed). Shevchenko Day, 1920. #7;Peasant, the Worker Has Joined the Red Army. Now It’s Your Turn, 2. 1920. 3. First Aid for the Wounded—A Quick Death to the Whites, 1921. 4. O #7; leksii (Aleksei) Marenkov. Comrade Peasants! Hand in Your Grain Tax. The Workers and the Red Army Are Waiting for Bread! The Tax Will Help Overcome Hunger. Help All Laboring People! 1921. Th #7; e Hungry Await Help from Their Soviet Rule. Timely Collection of the 5. Food Tax Will Save Everyone, 1921. 6. Oleksandr Khvostenko-Khvostov. Drive Off the Kulaks! 1920. Ivan Franko, 7. Vasyl Yermilov. 1920. 8. M #7; ykhailo Boichuk in the restoration studio at the Lviv National Museum, 1911–12. 9. Mykhailo Boichuk. Head of the Savior, 1910s. 10. Mykhailo Boichuk. Prophet Isaiah, 1912–13. 11. David Burliuk in the 1910s. Photographer unknown. 12. David Burliuk. Man with Two Faces, 1912. 13. David Burliuk. Cossack Mamai, 1908. Lenin and Tolstoy, 14. David Burliuk. 1925–30 (repainted in 1943). 15. David Burliuk. Two Ukrainian Girls, 1948. 16. David Burliuk. Uncle and His Niece, 1950s. 17. Vadym Meller. Sketch for a painting in cubo-futurist style, 1910s. 18. Vadym Meller in the early 1920s. Photographer unknown. 19. Nina Henke in the 1920s. Photographer unknown. 20. #7;Nina Henke. Suprematist composition produced by Verbivka folk artists, 1910s. 21. Nina Henke. Suprematist composition, 1910s. 22. #7;Vadym Meller. Blue Dancer, from Mephisto, to music of Liszt, 1919–20. Mask, 23. Vadym Meller. to music of Chopin, 1920. x List of Illustrations 24. Vadym Meller. Carnival, 1923. 25. #7;Ivan Kavaleridze. Princess Olga, original 1911, restored 1996. Square of St. Michael’s, Kyiv. 26. #7;Ivan Kavaleridze. Yaroslav the Wise, 1997, after a model made by the artist in the 1960s. Golden Gates, Kyiv. 27. #7;Ivan Kavaleridze. Artem, 1924. A still from Dziga Vertov’s Enthusiasm, 1930. Introduction: The “Historic” Avant-Garde of 1910–30 In the second and third decades of the twentieth century the avant-garde generated a prodigious cultural ferment among artists from Ukraine. One of the first avant-garde art exhibitions in the Russian Empire, the Link Exhibition of 1908, took place in Kyiv, and Ukrainians participated heavily in all the early displays in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the pre-war years they worked among avant-gardists in Paris, Munich, St. Petersburg, and Moscow. Early in their careers some of the great innovators of Ukrainian art, such as Volodymyr (Vladimir) Tatlin, Alexander Archipenko, Alexandra Exter, David Burliuk, Ivan Kavaleridze, Vadym Meller, and Mykhailo Boichuk, spent time in Paris, Munich, or Berlin. Burliuk and Meller exhibited with Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group in Munich in 1912. Influences traveled from East to West, as well as West to East. Exter, for example, participated in the Link Exhibition, then in Paris, where she met Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Apollinaire, along with other artists from Ukraine, such as Archipenko, Nathan Altman, David Shterenberg, and Wladimir (Volodymyr) Baranoff-Rossiné (Baranov) living in the city. Up to the time she finally emigrated to the French capital in 1924, she divided her time between Paris, Moscow and Kyiv. Ukrainian artists made major contributions to the international avantgarde. Kazimir Malevich’s suprematism, Tatlin’s constructivism, Burliuk’s futurism, Archipenko’s cubist sculptures, Exter’s theater art, and Boichuk’s monumentalism or neo-Byzantinism represent only a few examples of their experimentation. Yet, as part of a specifically Ukrainian avant-garde they have been understudied. Even the connections between them have frequently gone unrecognized. This has obscured th y member. She completed the Paris Academy of Art in 1905. 12 Forging the European Connection Beginning as a cubist and fauvist, she moved into a post-impressionist style and became known for her illustrations of limited edition books, Ébauche d’un Serpent including Paul Valéry’s (1922) and a French translation of Gogol’s Ukrainian stories. Apollinaire followed her exhibitions and commented on the resemblance of her works to those of Sonia Delauney. Her Parisian contacts were many and her home was a frequent meeting place for Ukrainian artists. In 1931 she organized an exhibition that included Hryshchenko, Andriienko-Nechytailo, Vasyl Khmeliuk, Mykola Krychevskyi, Vasyl Perebyinis, and herself. 12 Boichuk In the years preceding the First World War, restoration work conducted on numerous icons had proven conclusively that they had originally been brightly colored. This came as a revelation to many. Since the late nineteenth century, excitement had also been generated by the restoration of frescoes in the most ancient Ukrainian churches, some of which like St. Sophia’s Church and St. Michael’s Church of the Golden Domes dated back to the eleventh century. In the years 1907 to 1909, Mykhailo Boichuk brought awareness of this art to Paris, where he organized a studio in which young Ukrainian and Polish artists experimented with a neo-Byzantine style, combining influences from the Ukrainian icon and folk arts, and the fresco art of the Italian quattrocento (the so-called “primitives”). The group’s exhibition was reviewed by 13 Apollinaire, who was himself of Polish background and had Ukrainian sympathies. He wrote favorably of the Zaporozhian Cossacks and produced his own French version of the famous, apocryphal “Letter of the Zaporozhians to the Sultan.” It is possible that Archipenko provided him with a “copy” of the legendary letter and information about Ukrainian history. Hryshchenko (Alexis Gritchenko) Hryshchenko, who arrived in Paris after the revolution, also had a strong interest in the icon. He had specializing in biology in Kyiv and Moscow universities, but had also studied art in these cities and became involved in the modern art movement in Russia. During a brief earlier stay in Paris in 1911, 12 On Levytska see Susak 2010, 75–81. 13 On Boichuk in Paris see Susak 2016, 36–46. Kyiv to Paris: Ukrainian Art in the European Avant-Garde, 1910–30 13 he had met Andre Lhote, Archipenko, and Le Fauconnier, and developed an interest in cubism. He had also taken a trip to Italy to study the early Renaissance. In analyzing the Italian art of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the icons of ancient Rus, he found that the old masters applied “cubist” solutions to problems of space and color. In this way Hryshchenko traced a link between the contemporary avant-garde, the so-called “primitives” of the early Renaissance and the icon. He was convinced that a full understanding of the icon had only become possible with the appearance of modern art. Like Andre Benois and Aleksandr (Oleksandr) Shevchenko, he found formal similarities between ancient icons and the work of Matisse and Picasso. Although the debate on the icon had been stimulated around 1910 by the final refutation of its darkness, the icon’s formal, painterly qualities (as opposed to its religious importance or Christian symbolism) had never been investigated in the way Hryshchenko did in his two monographs, O sviaziakh russkoi zhivopisi s Vizantiei i Zapadom (On the Links of Russian Russkaia ikona kak iskusPainting with Byzantium and the West, 1913) and stvo zhivopisi (The Russian Icon as an Art of Painting, 1917). His own work blended a cosmopolitan worldview with formal features of Byzantine sacred art. In 1919, together with Shevchenko, he mounted an exhibition in Moscow called “Tsvetodinamos i tekhtonicheskii primitivism” (Colordynamos and Tekhtonic Primitivism), which was conceived as a counterbalance to production art. The two artists announced that only color, composition and “faktura” interested them. From 1919 to 1921 Hryshchenko lived in Istanbul, where he painted hundreds of watercolors. He then moved to France, where he became known for his exotic streams of oriental color. In his Moscow years Hryshchenko played a prominent role in the avant-garde, both as a painter and theorist. He was able to reconcile the Western and Eastern avant-gardes and explain their common concerns and interests. Unfortunately, his importance was never recognized in the Soviet Union, partly because his avant-gardism was painterly and not political, and partly because the regime considered him a traitor for leaving the country. As a result, his canvases were cut up and given to students in Moscow’s Higher Art and Technical Studios (Vkhutemas) to practice upon, and his name removed from art history. Later he exhibited in leading Parisian art galleries. He also displayed in Lviv in the 1930s at the Association of Independent Ukrainian Artists (ANUM, Asotsiiatsiia nezalezhnykh mysttsiv Ukrainy) and had personal shows in New York and Philadelphia. In 1963 he donated seventy works to the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York. These have now been transferred to Kyiv. 14 Forging the European Connection Andriienko-Nechytailo (Andreenko) Mykhailo Andriienko-Nechytailo (Michel Andreenko) studied in Kherson before the war and placed his first cubist and abstract works in a Leipzig exhibition (1916–17). He worked in Petrograd, before returning via Kyiv to Kherson in 1918. In 1919 he studied in Odesa with Exter, and worked for the theater. The city was divided into zones and he had to cross the borders with a military escort of get to the theater and back. He then worked as a set designer in Bucharest and Prague, and finally settled in Paris in 1923. Influenced by de Chirico and the surrealists, his works in the 1930s expressed the loneliness and isolation of the individual, as well as the mysteriousness of things. In later decades he developed a naïve art that searched for harmonious forms and childlike innocence. Baranoff-Rossiné (Baranov) Wladimir Baranoff-Rossiné was also born near Kherson, and studied at the Odesa School of Art (1903–7) and the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg (1908–9). He contributed to the Link (1908) and many early avant-garde exhibitions in the empire before moving to Paris in 1910, where he exhibited under the name of Daniel Rossiné from 1911 to 1914. In 1917 he returned to Russia, exhibiting in Petrograd and Moscow before emigrating to Paris in 1925. He exhibited at the Salon des Indépendents and other venues until 1942. In the 1910s he developed a style that represented a moderate futurism that was decorative, weightless, and full of light, spiral-shaped elements with silky textures. Like Andriienko’s, his work was not politically engaged, but borrowed from the visual charm and spiritual harmony of the icon. Redko Klyment Redko studied icon painting in the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves from 1910 to 1914. Here he met Vasilii Chekrigin, with whom he discussed cubism, futurism, and other modern art movements, while examining reproductions of Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and other artists. He then studied at the Moscow Art School (1913), the Petrograd in the Society for the Advancement of Art (1914–18), and the Ukrainian Academy of Arts in Kyiv (1918–19). He was a friend of Nikritin and Boichuk. In 1920 he found Kyiv to Paris: Ukrainian Art in the European Avant-Garde, 1910–30 15 himself in Kharkiv with Nikritin and Shterenberg, and then studied in the Moscow Vkhutemas (1920–22) where he associated with Nikritin, Tyshler, and other artists from Ukraine. In the eight years he spent in Paris (1927– 35) before returning to the Soviet Union he participated in the Salon d’Automne (1927), had four personal exhibitions, and met Picasso and other leading figures. Boichuk, Sedliar and Taran spent time with him when they visited the city in 1927. Redko’s early art is abstract and constructivist, but in the twenties he moved toward a realist style. Avant-garde film Ukrainians also made contribution to other, related art forms, notably the cinema. At the same time as Oleksandr Dovzhenko and Ivan Kavaleridze were producing avant-garde films in Ukraine, Yevhen Slavchenko (Eugene Deslaw) was making a reputation as an avant-garde film maker in Paris. He emigrated as part of the exodus that followed the defeat of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (1917–20). Deslaw studied in Paris in the 1920s and at the École Technique Photo-Cinema in 1927. In that year he assisted Abel Gance in making the early French film epic, Napoléon. His abstract and experimental films include Marche des Machines (1928), La Nuit Électrique Montparnasse Négatifs Robots (1930), (1931), (1932), and (1932). He worked with Boris Kaufmann (a collaborator on Marche des Machines), Alfred Zinnemann (the photographer on Marche des Machines), Luis Bunuel, and Marcel Carné (his assistants on Montparnasse). Until 1930 he corresponded with the Ukrainian futurist journal Nova generatsiia (New Generation) and with Dovzhenko, whom he met in Paris in 1930. Deslaw is considered part of the so-called second wave of the French avant-garde, which included Fernand Léger, René Claire, Henri Chaumet, Man Ray, and Germaine Dulac. Lviv Even after the Soviet borders were closed to them, Ukrainians living in Paris could maintain contacts with Lviv, which during the inter-war years found itself within the Polish state. They worked closely with ANUM and a number of them, including Andriienko, Hryshchenko, Hlushchenko, Khmeliuk, and Perebyinis, sent works to Lviv for display in the 1930s. At the end of the 1920s a group vert and covert messages. Dovzhenko’s film Zemlia (Earth, 28 Politics and Painting 1930), on the surface a call for collectivization, is at a deeper level a hymn to the countryside and ancient ways. Yurii Yanovskyi’s novel Chotyry shabli (Four Swords, 1930), which treats the revolution as national resistance, Volodymyr Gzhytskyi’s novel Chorne ozero (Black Lake, 1929), which views Soviet expansion as the spread of Russian hegemony, and Les Kurbas’s deflatDyktatura production of Ivan Mykytenko’s play (Dictatorship, 1929)—all are prominent examples of works with ambiguous and subversive messages. Kazimir Malevich’s peasant portraits of 1928–30, as will be argued later, also resound with subversive undertones. Another category of works shuffled the evaluative signs to make it difficult for a reader to identify positive and negative characters, thus demanding of the reader a more thoughtful assessment of events. Hryhorii Epik’s novel Persha vesna (First Spring, 1931) is an example. But almost all writers knuckled under in some way, even rewriting their works to fit the new requirements. A much-lauded classic of socialist realism and a work given the status of a patristic text, Andrii Holovko’s Maty (Mother) now exists in two editions, the 1932 original and the 1935 revision. The same hold true Burian Holubi eshelony for his (Weeds, 1927 and 1932), Petro Panch’s (Blue Echelons, 1926 and 1928), and Gzhytskyi’s Chorne ozero (1929 and, after many rejected revisions, 1956). Yanovskyi’s Chotyry shabli was criticized so strongly that the author felt obliged to write Vershnyky (Riders, 1935) as an act of literary-political contrition. Students of the literary heritage today often have to deal with several possible versions of the same book— palimpsests in which imposed political sentiments and stylistic features obscure the original inspiration. Before the late 1920s the introduction of a radically new sensibility had been interpreted by most avant-gardists in a broad aesthetico-cultural and philosophical sense. It was seen as the awakening and refinement of the mind and emotions, and involvement in politics as a response to perceived inadequacies. Writers and artists criticized narrow-mindedness, backwardness, obscurantism, and prejudice. However, they were gradually compelled to voice some concerns and avoid others. For instance, the attitude to the past—a crucial indicator of political preference—went through a rapid change. Many avant-gardists who earlier appeared prepared to jettison all past values, had by the late twenties begun to conform to Moscow’s demands and refrained from criticizing the Russian imperial past. In Ukraine, the political situation was defined by the existence of two powerful revolutionary political movements—socialism and nationalism. Each claimed a different kind of awakened and transformed consciousness. Writers and artists contended with the two competing visions of liberation. Politics and the Ukrainian Avant-Garde 29 In fact, in the early twenties they often found themselves attempting to reconcile them. By the end of the decade any suggestion of ambiguous and divided loyalties had been suppressed by the Soviet regime. The involvement in the struggle to create an independent Ukrainian People’s Republic (1917–20) of most intellectuals, including prominent figures like Dovzhenko and the poet Volodymyr Sosiura, could not be mentioned. National difference The Ukrainian avant-garde negotiated four political transitions in the 1920s: the national revolution (1917–19), the establishment of bolshevik power (1919–23), the period of Ukrainization (1923–28), and the imposition of Stalinist rule (1928–33). Most individuals prudently shifted their ground, aligning their views and artistic production with changing political imperatives. Accordingly, some supported the national movement, then Ukrainization movement, and then attacked prominent figures in this movement for “bourgeois nationalism” and “formalism” in the years 1928–33. It was convenient for cultural workers to forget that prior to 1917 a nationally conscious public had emerged, which had then participated in building the UNR by lending support in turn to the Central Rada (1917–18), the German-backed Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky (1918) and the Directory (1918–19). This public had supported the creation of cultural institutions such as the Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Arts, and had provided the readers, viewers and audiences for publications, visual and performing arts. The legacy of state and nation-building in these years was unwillingly inherited by many bolsheviks who had initially rejected the call for an independent or even autonomous Ukrainian state as counter-revolutionary. Some had even disputed the fact that a separate Ukrainian nation existed. Many had, in fact, regarded the revolution as primarily a war against separatism and considered Ukrainian culture subversive almost by definition, denouncing it as “counter-revolutionary,” “Petliurite,” or “a German invention.” Others dismissed it as derivative and incomplete, merely a branch of Russian, or condemned it as fundamentally flawed: inchoate, unrefined or antisemitic. Moreover, in the early years of Soviet rule some bolsheviks felt entitled to repress all expressions of Ukrainian identity as an act of revenge against what they had been conditioned to see as “counter-revolution.” This was relatively easy uffering of individuals, and the use of color adds drama. 46 Politics and Painting Drive Off the Oleksandr Khvostenko-Khvostov. Kulaks! 1920. Drive Off the Kulaks! (Gonite v sheiu kulakov!, 1920) was produced in Kharkiv and is the work of Oleksandr Khvostenko-Khvostov. Its subject is “class war” in the village. The bolshevik regime attempted at the time to split the village community by mobilizing poor peasants against their neighbors. The Council (“Rada” in Ukrainian, “Soviet” in Russian) of Worker and Peasant Deputies is shown meeting in the background. This is indicated by the plaque over the entrance to the building, written in Ukrainian. However, the language of the rest of this poster is Russian. The slogan reads: “Elect the poor and middle-peasants to the Council.” The Art Department of the Ukrainian Rosta (Telegraph Agency) is identified as the poster’s producer. It made many agitational posters at the time. Khvostenko-Khvostov became a well-known theater artist in the 1920s. Political Posters 1919–21 and the Boichuk School 47 Ivan Franko, Vasyl Yermilov. 1920. Ivan Franko (1920) was produced in Kharkiv by Vasyl Yermilov. The quotations from Franko’s popular poem “Kameniari” (Stone Masons) are used as encouragement to work for a better future. The graphic design is typical of Yermilov, a Kharkiv artist well-known for his love of clean, light and polished surfaces. Noteworthy are the innovative lettering and the manner in which graphics representing flora approach abstract designs. Both are signatures of Yermilov’s work. The words Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic (USRR) appear at the top of the poster along with the slogan “Proletarians of all countries unite!” The poster was issued by the All-Ukrainian State Publishers in Kharkiv. The city was the capital of the Ukrainian Republic from 1923 to 1934. Since the Boichuk School was the inspiration behind many of these posters, it is useful to glance at the artist’s career. When one does so the School’s involvement with bolshevik poster art in 1919–21 appears paradoxical. In pre-revolutionary years Boichuk attempted to produce a synthetic national art. innipeg: Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, 2009). Jews in the Artistic and Cultural Life of Ukraine in the 1920s 57 urban centers for close to two centuries, during which time the Ukrainian written word had been banned. Two networks of Jewish secular schools were created, one using Yiddish, the other Hebrew. Jewish research sections were created within Ukrainian academic institutions. Private, religious Jewish organizations, such as the heders, Talmud-Torahs, and yeshivas, were not subordinated to the Ministry. It is worth recalling that in 1917 most Jews supported the Ukrainian government. They were “united on the question of the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their ultimate political destiny” and delighted that parliament showed “more willingness to grant concessions to Jews than had any other constituent assembly in history” (Margolin 1922, 18). In 1917 Yosef Shekhtman, one of Jabotinsky’s Ievrei ta ukraintsi closest allies, published (Jews and Ukrainians) in which he wrote: Who if not we, children of an oppressed people, are capable of understanding the feelings and sufferings of a neighbor, who along with us has endured the cruelty and abuse of the old regime! We have been united by common aspirations and common goals. The moment has arrived when these aspirations are close to realization. Our common path is still a long one, but we believe, that a free Ukrainian people will support us on this path! (Quoted in Kleiner 2000, 61) One important reason for this alliance lay in the fact that Ukrainians formed a minority of the urban population. Realizing that neither the Polish nor the Russian minorities were well disposed toward it, the new government looked for allies in the Jewish minority. Several commentators have described the pervasive optimistic faith in the fruitfulness of the Ukrainian-Jewish accord (Vynnychenko 1920, 297–8; Goldelman 1967, 21). The Ukrainian leadership viewed the parallel development of Jewish cultural autonomy and Ukrainian national-territorial autonomy as a linchpin in its political strategy. Loyalty to the territory and its people, not to Ukrainian nationality or ancestry, was proclaimed as the new government’s principal requirement of the residents of Ukraine by Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, the first head of state. With the declaration of that principle, “Hrushevsky was laying the cornerstone of Ukraine’s proposed relations with its national minoritites” (Plokhy 2005, 77). Prominent Jewish figures served in the government, among them Solomon Goldelman, Arnold Margolin, who was vice-minister for Foreign Affairs, Moisei Zilberfarb, who was minister for Jewish Affairs, and the historian Mark Vishnitzer, who was a secretary of the English mission (Margolin 1922, 18–9). Jews were also part of the press and secretarial sections of the government missions to France and 58 Politics and Painting the Netherlands. In November 1918 Margolin personally read “proclamations issued by the government strongly condemning pogroms, explaining to the people that the Jews were fellow-citizens and brothers who were helping in the evolution of the Ukrainian state, and to whom the fullest rights were due” (Margolin, 19). He tendered his resignation in March 1919 because although he “was aware that the government was not to blame for the pogroms,” as a Jew, he could not retain an official position in a country where his “bretheren were being massacred” (Margolin, 19). When asked to stay on and work abroad as a diplomat for the UNR, he accepted, attending international conferences and serving as the government’s representative in London. The Folkspartei, Poale Zion, and the United Bund worked with the Jewish ministry. However, events leading up to the defeat of the UNR, and, in particular, the appalling wave of pogroms in 1919, in which demoralized units ostensibly loyal to the UNR participated, badly damaged this rapprochement. Under Soviet rule in the years 1923–28 the policy of Ukrainization or indigenization—a concession that the bolsheviks had to make to gain support in Ukraine—was accompanied by a great surge of interest in Ukrainian culture, a fact that shocked Russian urbanites, who had expected Ukrainians to willingly dissolve their identity in Russian. Instead they witnessed a great, spontaneous cultural revolution. Ten thousand people gave “poet” as their occupation during a census in Kyiv. In 1927 the newspaper Kultura i pobut (Culture and Life) claimed there ware 6,000 dramatic groups in Ukraine serving 12 million spectators. In the following year the journal Nove mystetstvo (New Art) informed that 70,000 people were involved in amateur theatricals and over 5,000 laid claim to being dramatists (Makaryk 2004, 143). The indigenization policy allowed for the continued development of not only Ukrainian, but also of Jewish secular cultural life, including the formation of Jewish institutions and structures. In the pre-revolutionary and immediate post-revolutionary years, Jews made up the second-largest urban population in Ukraine, second only to the Russian. In Kyiv, for example, where before 1903 Jews had practically been forbidden permanent residence, their numbers grew from 50,792 (10.84 percent) in 1910, to 117,041 (21.04 percent) in 1919, and to 128,041 (31.95 percent) in 1923 (Khiterer 1999, 143) Whereas other populations fled the city for the villages during the Revolution and its aftermath, or emigrated, the Jews often stayed. By 1926 they made up 26 percent of the city’s population. The Soviet Ukrainian government, like the UNR before it, sought the support of this population and c ns into English of selected stories, see Khvylovyi, 1960. National Modernism in Post-Revolutionary Society 69 at all,” and that Moscow, Kharkiv and Kyiv “would become just as enormous, just as well built, as Berlin, Hamburg, New York,” with skyscrapers; streets full of automobiles and bicycles; workers and peasants in fine clothes, wearing hats and watches; airplanes and dirigibles (Kopelev 1980, 183–84). Kopelev’s picture of the future is based on the assumption that modernity would be culturally Russian, perhaps uniformly so. These sentiments were echoed by others. Benedikt Livshits has described how he thought of David Burliuk and the early futurists “who had destroyed poetical and painterly traditions and had founded a new aesthetics as stateless Martians, unconnected in any way with any nationality, much less with our planet” (Livshits 1977, 39). Khvylovyi described the early post-revolutionary years differently: “some kind of joyful alarm grips my heart. I see my descendants and see with what envy they look at me—a contemporary and eyewitness of my Eurasian renaissance. Just think, only a few years and such achievements […] What wonderful prospects appear in the future for this country, when these courageous innovators finally overcome the inertia of the centuries” (Khvylovyi 1926, 10). It was not material but cultural achievements that inspired him, and his focus was not on some abstract borderless, geographical space, but on Ukraine (“this country’) as the pathblazer of a new culture (“my Eurasian renaissance”). However, the excitement and fervor resemble Kopelev’s. In his memoirs another Ukrainian writer of the twenties, Yurii Smolych, reflects this fervent faith in the arrival of the new: “This generation was called to liquidate the ruins of the war period and to create the first beginnings of the new way of life. And this took place at the break of two epochs—the destruction of the old worldly, reactionary norms and customs and the search for new customs and norms” (Smolych 1986, 384). What fascinates in this creative excitement is the combination of the avant-gardist, revolutionary and national. A vehement rejection of the past is linked to the belief that the modern would be built on the release of long-suppressed, untapped national energies. The structure of Khvylovyi’s stories is built on this kind of “argument.” His characters have often emerged from the whirlwind of revolutionary ideas and find themselves thrown into confusion by the horrors of the revolution. They are dissatisfied with revolutionary society, but find no inspiration in the pre-revolutionary world, which they associate with symbolism and aestheticism, a search for self-knowledge through retreat from the world. These characters suffer from arrested inner growth. Divorced from their surroundings, they focus obsessively on a beautiful illusion, the distant future, in which, they believe, the dreams of many past generations will become reality. However, the path to this future has been blocked. The vision recedes year after year, 70 Politics and Painting and is eventually entirely blotted out by the corruption of urban civilization. People from the countryside who have thrown in their lot with the revolution bring freshness, innocence and idealism to the construction of revolutionary society, but soon succumb to the city’s sterility and cynicism. Their vitality and excitement are extinguished. The loss of faith is caused in large part by the blocking of the national cultural movement, which authorities treat as something embarrassing, or even reactionary. As a result, Ukrainian protagonists develop a feeling of self-hatred. The same message is carried in the famous polemical pamphlets, in which Khvylovyi challenges young people to create a cultural renaissance. There is an underlying pull of mythic structures in the stories and pamphlets: illusions are destroyed by reality, heroism is disappointed by cowardice, and idealism is stifled by cynicism. Because of this, the stories can be given allegorical or symbolic readings, to which the pamphlets hold the interpretative key. The individual who is unable to tell his story openly can be seen as the nation that is not allowed to express itself, whose dreams of cultural development have been dashed. In this way, the fictional works recount a familiar tale of national oppression and the need for emancipation, albeit in a fragmented and mysteriously allusive modernist style. Nonetheless, the writer remained a caustic critic of conservative and populist views. He probed darkness at the heart of the village idyll, explored disturbing and anarchic forces in the human psyche, and exposed clichés such as romantic love. Like much of the literature and art of the early post-revolutionary period Khvylovyi’s writings show an aversion to populism and a refusal to embrace ethnographic traditions uncritically. Inspired by a vision of a blended social and national liberation, and by the prospect of introducing a new Ukrainian culture onto the world stage, his writings draw sustenance from the palingenetic myth (the idea of rebirth, regeneration, revival) that has been widely observed in twentieth-century modernism. The crucial concept is that of genesis. Both artists and writers sought to identify key elements out of which the culture had been formed. Thus the writers who contributed to the VAPLITE journal and to the next journal formed by Khvylovyi, Literaturnyi iarmarok (Literary Marketplace, December 1928–February 1930) searched for elements of the cultural code that represented the national experience and identity as it had evolved over the centuries. They examined archetypal forms, characters, canonical images and works, and then recoded these into a new format and a new identity. Abstraction, along with the idea of investigating fundamental concepts, played an important role—whether in literature, painting, or theater. The search for the “grammatical structure” of national identity became National Modernism in Post-Revolutionary Society 71 analogous to experimentation with pure color and form in painting, or with the search for basic patterns of sound and meaning in poetry, which were also typical of the avant-garde in the twenties. It was thought that, once discovered, these basic elements could by some mysterious alchemy be transformed into a new synthesis. Others negotiated attitudes to the past in similarly ambiguous ways. The example of art is particularly instructive. Exter’s studio in Kyiv in the years 1917–20 was a good example of the modernist transformation of tradition. It blended cubo-futurism, constructivism, and folk-primitivism in innovative ways. Her interest in arts and crafts at this time led to collaboration with artists such as Yevheniia Prybylska and Nina Henke, who developed workshops in which local women mass-produced textiles and other products using patterns inspired both by folk motifs or by suprematist art. These were shown in major exhibitions in Moscow and Paris to great acclaim. Exter’s studio educated many important artists, including leading Jewish figures such as Boris Aronson, Isaak Rabinovich, Nisson Shifrin, Aleksandr (Oleksandr) Tyshler, and was visited by many figures from Moscow and Petrograd who found themselves in Kyiv at the time, such as Illia Ehrenburg, Benedikt Livshits, Osip Mandelshtam, Viktor Shklovsky, and Natan Vengrov. Malevich’s suprematist art can also be seen as a kind of recreation in an abstract and mystical key of the ancient and ethnographic; and Boichuk’s monumentalist or neo-Byzantinist school also turned to national sources in its search for primitive, ethnographic and folk features. The Boichuk School came out of the thrilling “rediscovery” in pre-revolutionary years of the icon as not only a popular but also a sophisticated form that could be linked to cubist and avant-gardist experimentation. The artist turned to the icon and folk arts for national forms, and attempted to crystallize these traditional elements into a modern synthesis and a national style. Other artists, who were not part of the avant-garde, where also feeding this interest in the past. Heorhii Narbut and Vasyl Krychevskyi, for example, were famous for translating ornamental images into modern graphic art, particularly in book design: Narbut reworked baroque images and Krychevskyi folk art patterns. Like the “national modernist” writers grouped around Khvylovyi, they were guided by a desire to give old, often very ancient forms a new expression. These writers and artists felt no dichotomy between “ethnic loyalty” and participation in international modernism. Their interest in the traditional aimed at uncovering its deeper generative principles. Figures such as Archipenko, Malevich, Exter, and Burliuk succeeded in bringing their discoveries to the international community. Like these artists, writers did 72 Politics and Painting not desire to remain strictly within the limits of their particular national tradition, but recognized the dialectical relationship between the national and international in art. Abstracting, translating, or transforming tradition into modernist form became something of an obsession in Ukrainian culture in the following decades, and a major part of the continuing search for self-definition. In the forties, for example, Sviatoslav Hordynskyi, an artist, poet, and art critic who began exhibiting and writing in Lviv in the thirties (then part of the Polish state) before moving to the United States wrote an article in which he argued for an abstract national art in terms very close to those used in the early twenties. He suggested that international modernism’s interest in form had compelled twentieth-century Ukrainian artists to abandon historical styles and genre painting and forced them to study the compositional techniques and colors of their own popular traditions. The “strong, formalist features of the old Ukrainian art, its anti-naturalism” allowed them to create in an abstract manner that simultaneously echoed traditional forms (Hordynskyi 1947, 15). Hordynskyi singled out the Boichuk School of the 1920s as an exemplary synthesis of traditionalism and formalism, and thought that the search for this synthesis continued to drive many contemporary artists. A comparison with the key concepts of the Jewish revival is revealing. In the years 1918–20 Kyiv’s Kultur-Lige championed the idea of a secular Yiddish culture that would be international and modern. Created on January 9, 1918, the organization had established a hundred and twenty branches throughout Ukraine by the end of the year. Eponymous organizations were created in Petrograd, Crimea, Minsk, Grodny, Vilnius, Bialystok, Chernowets (in Romania; today’s Chernivtsi in Ukraine), Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, and the far-eastern cities of Chita, Irkutsk and Harbin. When at the end of 1920 the Kyiv center came under bolshevik control, some members left in order to reproduce the organization in Warsaw in 1921 and Berlin in 1922. A Kultur-Lige was created in Riga (Latvia) in 1922, New York and Chicago in 1926, Bucharest in 1931, and Mexico and Argentina in 1935. The Ukrainian organization was the largest and strongest in the years 1918–20, and provided the model for developments elsewhere. Claims were made for its having “four evening folk universities, twelve grammar schools, twenty large libraries with reading rooms, seventy kindergartens and orphanages, forty evening programs, ten playing fields, three gymnasiums [high schools], twenty dramatic circles, choruses, and troupes” (Der Fraytog, Berlin, 1 August 1919, 36; quoted in Wolitz 1988, 35) The organization opened art studios, an art museum, a teachers’ seminary, and a Jewish Peopl aves and branches, the frosting on window-panes” (Burliuk David Burliuk and Steppe as Avant-Garde Identity 93 1994, 154). By studying these forms, the artist can grasp the macrocosm encoded in microcosms. The tactile, textural quality of painting was related to Burliuk’s blindness in one eye, the result of a childhood accident, his insights often came through studying close up details. He once wrote: Let your eyes rest upon the surfaces, faces of my pictures […] I throw pigments with brushes, with palette knife, smear them on my fingers, and squeeze and splash the colors from the tubes […] Visual topography is the appreciation of paintings from the point of view of the characteristics of their surfaces. The surfaces of my paintings are laminated, soft, glossy, glassy, tender as the female breast, slick as the lips of a maiden or the petals of a rose, flat and dusty, flat and dull, smooth, even and mossy, dead, sand, hairy, deeply shelled, shallow shelled, shell-like, roughly hewn, faintly cratered, grained, splintery, mountainous, rocky, crater-like, thorny, prickly, camelbacked, etc. In my works you will find every kind of a surface one is able to imagine or to meet in the life’s labyrinths. (Burliuk 1949, 8) Nature’s coarse, ruffled, unpolished character attracted him. It also provided a model for personal deportment and appearance. He, for example, wrote rather favorably of Khlebnikov’s unkemptness and honesty, and altogether negatively of Igor Severianin’s affectation and controlled acting (Burliuk 1994, 58, 64–73). We learn from Burliuk’s memoirs that Khlebnikov visited a number of prominent writers, among them Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, Aleksei Remizov and Viacheslav Ivanov, but, according to Burliuk, was met with condescension: “the symbolists found him ‘inaccurate’ [nechetkim], ungroomed […] No one could groom Vitia; he was grandly tousled by nature.” Khlebnikov is described rather admiringly as a “wild, phenomenal organism continually creating words […] with all the voraciousness of fecundity” (Burliuk 1994, 57–8). Burliuk’s primitivism was also related to his understanding of the emotional, subconscious and mystical. He believed, for example, in invisible realms outside the normal sphere of human perception, realms that could be sensed by artists, but did not submit to rational analysis. This faith appears to have originated from encounters with soothsayers, miracle-workers and gypsies during his archaeological expeditions (Nicholas Burliuk n.d., 86–93). As a youth he asked to be allowed to spend the night in a haunted house (ibid., 93–5). He was fascinated by hidden processes taking place outside the normal sphere of human perception. In the 1910–12 he painted a series of 94 Artists in the Maelstrom: Five Case Studies abstract works showing the movement of parts of the atom, and in the 1920s he painted radio waves and energy forces, perhaps convinced that they could be at least sensed. Most notably, his impressionistic paintings of the steppe completed before 1917 attempt to capture things invisible to the naked eye. These works pulsate with energy that seems to be generated by the interaction of millions of living particles. The canvases typically depict a summer scene under the bright sun. In the earliest works he uses a pointillistic technique; later paintings are reminiscent of Van Gogh’s intense juxtaposition of colors. In all cases, the impression produced is of a shimmering surface teeming with activity and displaying a myriad of intricate patterns. The viewer is offered a vision of an endlessly productive, bountiful and mysterious natural world. He later reproduced the same impressionistic patterning in the landscape paintings completed in Japan during the years 1920–22, and then again in paintings done at various times in the United States. Burliuk also revealed a desire to see the world holistically, something that expressed itself as an ecological consciousness. What has been described as his Naturphilosophie did not appealed to Soviet critics, who only mentioned it to expressed displeasure with what they described mystical tendencies (Postupalskii 1932, 15). As with other artists, primitivism allowed Burliuk to avoid following the beaten path, and to articulate an authentic, personal view of life. Sometimes he deliberately included the ugly, “brutal” detail, or simultaneously showed several sides of an image in order to break down accepted patterns of thinking and to construct a more “dynamic” and personal model of perception. But his primitivism is perhaps best grasped as an almost mystical union with the earth and the vitality of common people. His works celebrate psychological, cultural and biological health. Even the last paintings of flowers and summer landscapes are full of brilliant sunshine and bursting energy, a final tribute to nature’s beauty and power. His character and sensibility was referred to by contemporaries as Ukrainian. Gollerbakh mentions his “khokhol goodnaturedness” and “stubbornness” (Gollerbakh 1930, 16). Lentulov and Livshits saw the optimism and hospitality in Chornianka as evidence of a Ukrainian background. These qualities they associated with his love of the prolific and irrepressible. Burliuk was proud of his own artistic productivity, and lauded it in others. He commented favorably that Khlebnikov “wrote ceaselessly. He was a great graphomaniac […] Every external impulse stirred him to a stream of words” (B om reproductions. His intensive contacts with Ukrainians, Kazimir Malevich’s Autobiography and Art 107 however, continued. It is worth noting that this Russian province neighboring Ukraine had a mixed Russian-Ukrainian population at the time. In 1926 over half a million people, or 19.1 percent of the oblast, identified as Ukrainian. Ethnographically, some areas were, in fact, entirely Ukrainian, and were considered such by contemporaries. It is not surprising, there5 that the painter’s closest friends in Kursk were often Ukrainians. The list included the artist Lev Kvachevskyi, with whom Malevich continued to correspond in future years, Valentyn Loboda, who had studied art with the great Ukrainian modernist Oleksandr Murashko, and Mykola (Nikolai Roslavets), the avant-garde composer and conductor who later moved to Kharkiv. Malevich underlines Kvachevskyi’s Ukrainian background: “Lev Kvachevskyi was my very best friend. We couldn’t live without each another [...] Every day in summer, spring and winter we’d walk thirty versts for our sketching sessions [...] While we ate we’d discuss various matters, or reminisce about Ukraine. We were both Ukrainians” (Vakar and Mikhienko, vol. 1, 26). In 1904 at the age of twenty-six Malevich moved to Moscow. Even then he spent his summers in Kursk, only making the complete move with his family in 1907. Kursk did, however, produce a change in his views. Vakar has suggested that during his time there he underwent a radicalization, which was expressed in his atheism (he apparently refused to baptize his children) and in his anger over the police supervision of his two brothers, Anton and Mechislav, and Mechislav’s wife Maria (whose maiden name was Zgleits). It is likely that the stay in Kursk transformed Malevich from a “respectable young man into a rebel and nihilist” (Vakar 2004, 582). However, it was in Moscow, where he attended the studio of Fedor Rerberg and visited local galleries, that an even more radical transformation took place. He discovered that icons had an unexpectedly strong impact on him: “I felt something familiar and wonderful in them” (Vakar and Mikhienko 2004, 28). At that moment he recalled his childhood, “the horses, flowers and roosters of the primitive murals and wood carvings,” and sensed a bond between peasant art and the icon. The emotional and spiritual elements in icon art suddenly revealed to him the “high-cultural form of peasant art” (Vakar and Mikhienko, 28). His autobiography continues: “I came to understand the peasants through the icon, saw in the 5 The region of Ostrogozhsk, for example, had been settled by Ukrainian Cossacks, who after 1783 had mostly been enserfed by Catherine the Great. The 1897 census revealed that this area was still over ninety percent Ukrainian. This is why after 1917 the Central Rada wanted to include it within the borders of the Ukrainian People’s Republic as province to be named Podon. See Zhyvotko 1943, 10. 108 Artists in the Maelstrom: Five Case Studies faces not saints, but ordinary people. And [I understood] the colors and the painter’s attitude” (Vakar and Mikhienko, 28). Moscow was therefore a further stage in his development. Through the art of the icon, he tells us, he was able to grasp the emotional art of the peasantry, which he had loved earlier but had been incapable of explaining to himself. As a result, Malevich rejected perspective, anatomy and the entire realist-naturalist approach that he had cultivated while studying the Wanderers. He decided that icon painters had achieved a high degree of technical mastery, and had succeeded in conveying content in an anti-anatomical way, outside the laws of perspective. They created color and form through a purely emotional way of approaching a theme. It was then, he tells us, that he realized there was a direct artistic connection between the icon, on the one hand, and the little horses and roosters on peasant walls, along with peasant costumes and domestic tools, on the other. He informs the reader that he decided not to follow the classical art of antiquity, nor its revival in the Renaissance, which he now viewed as an art for beauty (dlia krasoty). Nor did he follow the realist art of the Wanderers (Peredvizhniki), which he now characterized as propaganda art. Instead, he decided to remain “on the side of peasant art” and “began painting pictures in the primitive spirit” (Vakar and Mikhienko, 29). In 1910–13 he first imitated icons, then painted peasants at work, people in suburbs and small town, and finally explored the world of town signs. This narrative in large part contradicts the idea of Malevich’s artistic life as beginning with his move to Moscow, where he supposedly embraced the new art of the city and the machine. In critical literature there has been a tendency to focus heavily on the exhibitions in Moscow and St. Petersburg/Leningrad, and to ignore his previous life. This is to some degree understandable given the amount of information available about the artist’s life during the latter periods. Naturally, he was keen to escape provincial surroundings and to gain artistic enlightenment, and his artistic projects in both Moscow and St. Petersburg succeeded in placing him indisputably in the forefront of artistic innovation. One can agree that these two cities “were places that spoke of reform and revolution” and that they represented for Malevich centers both of “thought” and “intrigue” (Crone and Moos 1991, 51–52). However, Vakar describes the Moscow period as still one of the least studied and most interesting in the artist’s life: “In ten years, from a completely unknown self-taught provincial he was transformed into the leader of the newest artistic movement, one summoned to complete the development of contemporary painting” (Vakar 2004, 583). A r o display 4 Now the Archive-Museum of Literature and Art. 126 Artists in the Maelstrom: Five Case Studies or sell the work, which they considered too colorful and therefore vulgar. The situation changed after the work of individual peasant artists such as Yevheniia Pshechenko from Skoptsi were greeted with acclaim in the Gallery Lemercier in 1914 and 1915. Exter’s enthusiastic endorsement at the opening of the Kyiv exhibition in 1919 also served as legitimization. In her address Exter noted folk art’s “two-dimensional solution of vegetal, animal, and architectural pattern” in woven cloth and rugs, embroidery and printing. She argued that color intensity had been replaced by the public’s taste for “the muted patina of time, which conveyed an impression of authenticity and the charm of the antique.” Such an understanding of popular art “was not based on in-depth research into the roots and laws which dictate the choice of color, of lines and composition” (Exter 1990, 209). Prybylska’s drawings, she said, were related to the works of Matisse, who was also “inspired by the East, by its ornaments and colours.” In the workshops where the embroidery and weaving was done Prybylska’s drawings were treated “both as embroidery patterns and as creative art” (Exter, 210). The exhibition demonstrated that Sobachko had “emerged as a distinct personality, establishing by her choice of color and her composition a style of her own” (Exter, 210). Henke and suprematism The public’s reassessment of folk art came at a time when avant-garde artists such as Liubov Popova, Alexandra Exter and Olga Rozanova were looking to introduce color and dynamism into their works. Henke and Prybylska were able to recruit them for their project, with the resulting unexpected marriage of high and popular art. The fusion of suprematism with peasant art was largely the result of collaboration between these four talented women artists—Prybylska, Exter, Henke, and Davydova. Through their efforts the villages of Skoptsi, Verbivka and Zoziv (near Kyiv) became laboratories in which “the ultra-modern fused with the ancient” (Papeta 2006, 123). Henke’s role was crucial. Initially she had directed the work at Skoptsi. In 1916, while working with Exter on the designs for Famira Kifared, she developed contacts with suprematist artists. In this way she became the link between avant-garde artists in Moscow and St. Petersburg, including Kazimir Malevich’s Supremus group, of which she was a member, and the craft workers in Ukraine. She maintained both networks in later years, keeping in regular contact with Rozanova, Popova, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Vadym Meller and Sources of Inspiration in Theater Art 127 Ivan Puni, and Ivan Kliun, preparing their sketches for the embroiderers in the craft workshops, and also creating her own suprematist compositions for them (Papeta, 124–25). Lost works Many of the works produced by Henke and Meller have been lost, along with them a portion of this period’s history. Meller’s prewar works were lost in 1914 when he moved back to Kyiv from Paris. The outbreak of the First World War prevented their shipment, and they were never seen again. Only a few photographs now exist of paintings done in cubo-futurist style, produced in Munich and Paris, and shown at the Salon des Indépendants, Salon de Printemps and Salon d’Automne. Another loss occurred during the Second World War, when in 1941 many works were removed from the Kyiv apartment of Meller and Henke by German soldiers. The fate of these works also remains unknown. Most of Henke’s works were removed from the Kyiv apartment during this confiscation. As a result, her contribution to suprematism and post-revolutionary graphic art is not well known. Only a few cover designs made for futurist publications in the twenties and a couple of suprematist works hastily packed during the evacuation have survived. Although the full story of the avant-garde’s collaboration with the 5 folk arts still requires reconstructing, is clear that Henke and Meller were at the center of an important interaction between innovative art trends, folk designs and commercial production. In spite of the losses, today Kyiv’s Museum of Theater, Music and Cinema Arts, which is located on the grounds of the Monastery of the Caves (Pecherska Lavra), contains 420 works by Meller, including sketches for costumes and decorations for 59 performances. His work can also be found is several private collections and museums. Meller’s legacy also includes 6 the students that he trained and his collaborative work with playwrights and directors, such as Vakhtang Beridze, Les Kurbas, Mykola Kulish, and Marian Krushelnytskyi. 7 5 For two examples, see Lahutenko 2007, 10, 27. 6 These include the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kyiv, the Bakhrushinskii Museum in Moscow, the Shevchenko Theater Museum (formerly the Berezil Theater) in Kharkiv, and the Archive-Museum of Literature and Art in Kyiv. 7 His students included Dmytro Vlasiuk, odel made by the artist in the 1960s. Golden Gates, Kyiv. 140 Artists in the Maelstrom: Five Case Studies On December 23, 1922 Kavaleridze’s sculpture of Skovoroda was unveiled in Lohvyn. He later produced sculptures of Shevchenko in Poltava in 1925, and Sumy in 1926. The sculptor’s interest in Shevchenko and Skovoroda continued throughout his career, as viewers of the many projects and smaller works on display in his museum in Kyiv can attest. So Yaroslav the did his fascination with the age of Kyivan Rus. A sculpture of Wise, which Kavaleridze wanted to be placed on the grounds of St. Sophia Cathedral, was erected there only after his death. The same project became the basis for a statue erected in 1997 outside the Golden Gates of Kyiv. This focus on national heroes sat somewhat uncomfortably with his glorification of bolshevik leaders, whose models are also on display in the Kyiv museum. Ivan Kavaleridze. Artem, 1924. A still from Dziga Vertov’s Enthusiasm, 1930. Ivan Kavaleridze’s Contested Identity 141 However, the avant-garde period is best captured by his two Artem statues. His most famous avant-garde monument, the Artem of 1924, was named after the first head of the Soviet (or Council) of People’s Commissars (Radnarkom) of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Unveiled in Bakhmut in the Donetsk oblast on July 27, 1924, it immediately became a symbol of the new proletarian and constructivist age. It figured prominently in various posters and publications, and in Dziga Vertov’s film Entuziazm (Enthusiasm, 1930). Made of reinforced concrete, a material that itself symbolized power and endurance, the statue produced an overpowering effect on viewers. Much of the construction work was done in a synagogue commandeered by the regime (Nimenko 1967, 21). There has been resistance to telling the full story about the decision to destroy this monument. Although it had been damaged during the Second World War, the details were saved, and it could have been restored. After all, it was described in the twenties as embodying the epoch, symbolizing the whole liberated working class (Kapelhorodskyi et al. 2007, 21). Nonetheless, in the postwar period the city administration decided upon a traditional image and a naturalistic depiction, which replaced the statue in 1959 (Kapelhorodskyi et al., 21). Kavaleridze then produced a sculpture of Lenin in Shostka in 1926 and a second avant-garde Artem monument in Sviatohirsk in 1927. Almost thirty meters high, this colossus still dominates the skyline. Kavaleridze set it on a high bluff overlooking the Pivnichnyi Donets (Dinets) River. Artem, Like the earlier it has a geometrical quality. Produced in layers, it resembles a multi-story building. One observer commented: “Artem rose up as a severe and hard monument against the background of shapeless [rozplyvchatykh] mountain lines, like organized, materialized will dominating the soggy river and soft surfaces of distant fields” (Gorev 1927). The Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party (bolsheviks) of Ukraine insisted that Kavaleridze carve into the sculpture Artem’s phrase: “I find the sight of unorganized masses insufferable” (Nimenko 1967, 27). Over time the work gained enormous popularity. It also proved impregnable. Although the first Artem sculpture was destroyed along with several of other Kavaleridze sculptures, this second Artem survived not only plans by Soviet authorities to take it down (by the thirties they no longer tolerated the avant-garde), but also German attempts to destroy it during the war (they viewed it as an example of degenerate modernism). Its pock-marked surface testifies to its bei : “за чи проти існування повноцінної української люлини.” 154 Artists in the Maelstrom: Five Case Studies change. We can argue that the vision of the vidrodzhentsi was different: they saw national liberation as coinciding with social and personal liberation. In their minds the new beginning was to be built upon old foundations. The image of Urbino is perhaps a good way of capturing this. It was the name of a group Khvylovyi tried to form out of the organization Hart (Tempering) in the early 1920s. The name “Urbino” not only stood for the urbanization of culture, but also referred to the town in Italy that in the fifteenth century became a center of Renaissance humanism. On orders of the Duke of Urbino, artists made use of pre-existing structures to construct a unique city in the form of an asymmetrical palace, an edifice of symphonic complexity and grandeur. The palace may be seen as a metaphor for what the 5 vidrodzhentsi were trying to accomplish—their “new” was to be European and sophisticated; it was to break with the outdated and backward, but to maintain links with the Ukrainian past. This message is embedded in the literature and art of many avant-garde groups in the twenties. It is manifest, for example, in Dovzhenko’s great silent films, where the old and new are contrasted but linked, revealing deep continuities at the philosophical and spiritual level. By contrast, the “proletarian” and the “Stalinist” revolutions often viewed any depiction that found elements in the Ukrainian past that were admirable, or worthy of sophisticated artistic treatment, as suspicious, or, worse still, as retrograde and counter-revolutionary. All three forms of enthusiasm had common features, many of which were associated with avant-gardism. The idea of change, modernity and urbanization captured the imaginations of those who thought that the artist ought to be a visionary, even a fanatic. Exceptional talent, recognition of the ability to break through to new forms of consciousness, to “dare” [derzat’], to use Khvylovyi’s word, were celebrated. This, incidentally, was true not only of writing within Soviet Ukraine, but also of the so-called “nationalist” writings produced in the interwar emigration and in Galicia. Oleh Olzhych, the OUN’s spokesperson on cultural affairs, Yevhen Malaniuk, Yurii Lypa, and other leading figures in emigration glorified the demiurge, the artist ahead of his time, and they particularly admired the drive and radicalism of the literature produced in Kharkiv in the twenties. Avant-gardism, the pursuit of the new and visionary, was therefore something that all three revolutionary enthusiasms shared. This is evident in the attraction to the dynamic and vital, which expressed itself in various forms, one of which was the cult of health, strength and endurance. 5 See Shkandrij 1992, 40–41. Dziga Vertov: Enthusiasm, Kharkiv and Cultural Revolution 155 It can be found in writers such as Yurii Yanovskyi, Oleksa Vlyzko, Arkadii Liubchenko, Maik Yohansen, and Mykola Khvylovyi. It was also picked up by Olzhych, Lypa, Olena Teliha, and many other Ukrainian writers living in Central Europe and Western Ukraine. The human body, its psychological and physical powers (Yanovskyi, Khvylovyi), animalistic urges (Liubchenko), even the energy contained in landscapes (Yohansen) revealed an optimistic faith in human and physical nature, the ability to overcome obstacles and to create the new. The individual artist who had the courage to explore new horizons, “colonize” new territory, was celebrated. In the “proletarian” current the avant-garde attraction to vitality was translated into a glorification of the working class’s drive and accomplishments. We are perhaps most familiar today with the powerful, bronze-like figures of laborers, whose bodies are admiringly captured in films. This current elevated the innocent, childlike, unspoiled, naïve, even primitive, in opposition to the excessively sophisticated, Westernized and bourgeois. The worker in the writings of many authors. including, for example, Petro Panch and Andrii Holovko, is portrayed as direct, untutored and hence trustworthy. This fascination with the proletarian also manifest itself as an enthusiasm for technique, technical innovation and experimentation, linking these qualities to the ingenuity of the worker-creator. In the third, Stalinist enthusiasm, the idea of the avant-garde and vitality is reworked into something more robotic, sometimes infantile. The worker becomes all muscle and no reflection, all marching rhythms and nursery rhymes. Unabashed propaganda replaces critical thought. For many readers, Pavlo Tychyna’s strange, doggerel-like verse from the late twenties and early thirties—of which “Partiia vede” (“The Party Leads”) of 1933 is an example—falls into this category, along with many of the panegyrics to the leader, party, plan, army, and state that soon became typical of socialist realism. We are now most familiar with this kind of cultural production in the works that have been categorized as socialist realism and that were produced in the thirties and ensuing two decades. However, the seeds of this thinking were already present in the twenties. In 1927 Mykola Skrypnyk wrote: “The issue is not to discover and correctly build the link between cultural work and the economy, but to now view cultural-educational work as the industrialization of man’s brain, the industrialization of qualified human material” (Skrypnyk 1927, 124). The ambition of this 6 third revolutionary enthusiasm was not to release the genius within the 6 The phrasing in the original is: “Справа стоїть не в тому, щоб знайти і правильно збудувати звязок між культурною роботою і господаркою, а в тому, щоб тепер 156 Artists in the Maelstrom: Five Case Studies individual, but to glorify utilitarianism and functionalism. Brilliance was not attached to the individual or even the group creator, but to the plan, which had sprung from the mind of the great leader. The idea of completely transforming people in this way was already evident in 1927, when Mikhail Semenko spoke of forming a new psyche, a new person, even “a new race” (Semenko 1927, 43). These three enthusiasms appear to have stimulated many creative individuals and numerous formal experiments. Writers and artists were, of course, not free even in the twenties. All were watched in one way or another by state authorities and instructed by the party, but there was still in the mid-twenties a greater degree of freedom of expression and a greater capacity for resisting party pressures. As the national renaissance morphed into the proletarian revolution and then the Stalinist second revolution, the degree of freedom became progressively circumscribed. This can be illustrated in a number of ways. Theater gradually moved from the national romanticism of Mykola Kulish’s plays to the Stalinist vision of Ivan Mykytenko’s Dyktatura (Dictatorship, 1930). Film moved Zvenyhora from the depiction of national transformation in Dovzhenko’s (1927), Arsenal (1929) and Zemlia (Earth, 1930), to the glorification of proletarian vigor and construction in his Ivan (1932). In each case the movement was from celebrating natural rhythms to subduing and channeling these rhythms by the proletarian strongman, and finally to the triumph of the impersonal Plan. A similar shift is evident in Dziga Vertov’s Cholovik z kinoaparatom films. Whereas (Man with the Movie Camera, 1930) admires personal ingenuity and creativity, in this way suggesting the ideal of the individual’s liberation from an outdated, false consciousness, his Entuziazm (Enthusiasm, 1931) is dominated by scenes of proletarian masses and individual workers who pledge to work harder for the benefit of the state. These films move from celebrating human creativity to praising the Plan and the great planner. Exploring links to the country’s history is replaced by celebrating the erasure of links to history—perhaps most clearly suggested by images of vast dams that submerge the countryside and scenes recording the destruction of churches and their conversion into Komsomol clubs. Nonetheless, both Vertov films were remarkable artistic experiments and much lauded achievements. The aesthetic that underpins them, Enthusiasm, especially the less frequently analyzed deserves closer investigation. Filmed in 1930, Enthusiasm was the first sound film produced by культурно-освітню роботу розглядати як індустріялізацію чоловічого мозку, індустріялізацію кваліфікованого людського матеріялу).” Dziga Vertov: Enthusiasm, Kharkiv and Cultural Revolution 157 Ukrainian film studios. It was based on footage made mostly in Kharkiv, Odesa and the Donbas. The director took his crew to Kharkiv to film the Eleventh All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets and then to the factories and coal-mines of Donetsk. The film, subtitled “Symphony of the Donbas,” promotes itself as both a documentation of how the new culture is being Man with the Movie created and a representation of this new culture. Like Camera, this was an experimental production—only this time in the new genre of sound film. It incorporated a musical montage of voice recordings, industrial sounds (trains, factories and machines), and music from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 1. Vertov’s crew designed and redesigned their recording apparatus while filming. Much of the original sound was lost or proved unusable, and therefore to make the final product the film had to be changed on the cutting board. The crew had little transportation and were often obliged to carry equipment into locations themselves. The recording devices were taken onto the roofs of trains and deep into mine shafts. Lacking playback possibilities the crew was unable to listen to the footage produced or to check devices. The resulting trembling of sound made some recordings unusable. The final editing was done in a frantic fifty days and nights. Nonetheless, the resulting soundtrack is a fascinating montage that combines clanging iron, roaring fires, shuddering sounds on the factory floor, rushing trains, radio addresses, speeches, marching bands, and crowds. Charlie Chaplin found it stunning and commented on the “beauty of mechanical sounds.” The film, in fact, can be interpreted as combining all three enthusiasms mentioned. There are references to the national dimension and Ukrainization; to the glorification of proletarian culture; and to the Stalinist drive for standardization, mechanization and militarization, even of the human body. Uniting them all is the avant-garde cult of natural and physical vitality. Moreover, today’s viewer can read into the film an unresolved tension between these three currents or dimensions. The national dimension is present in the images of Ukrainization. Throughout the film the viewer is exposed to the use of Ukrainian in street signs, the film’s headings and subtitles. Ukrainian identity markers can be found in the chronicling of specific events, such as the All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets held in Kharkiv in 1931 and in the behavior of the people, which the camera attempts to capture as “life unawares,” a manner that would later in the 1960s be dubbed cinema vérité. There are no professional actors. Instead, ordinary people are shown going about their business; many scenes are clearly not staged. This allows footage to reveal, for example, the