Russian Art Explores Politics and Pollution

Situated at the base of one of America’s grandest mountain ranges and to the west of the great plains, Denver’s art scene includes the unexpected: Russian-influenced art. Sloane Gallery, located at the corner of 17th and Larimer in historic downtown, is the home of Russian contemporary art and artists alike, making it an exotic gem in the middle of America.

Mina Litinsky opened the gallery’s doors in 1981, and since then Sloane has housed pieces whose content ranges from Russian surrealism, to Russian avant-garde, to pieces reflecting political unrest. The gallery is internationally recognized as being one the world’s major dealers in Russian contemporary art. With Litinksy’s keen eye for talent, many of Sloane’s featured artists also have pieces in internationally recognized museums, like New York’s Guggenheim or Museum of Modern Art.

Anatoly Krysochenko’s piece titled “Lenin In Razliv” offers a different perspective of the once-aggressive leader in the revolution and evolution of Russia. The piece is a portrait of Vladimir Lenin sitting on a grassy hill, gazing off into the distance as he’s surrounded by a lake and trees. The piece offers a different look into Lenin— in this painting he is depicted as being peaceful and reflective, whereas other pictures and paintings of him depict him as ruling with an iron fist. The colors used in the oil-on-canvas piece are bright greens and blues, juxtaposed with his grey clothes. It’s an intriguing piece that lets the viewer see Lenin in a sort of everyday-life position.

In contrast to the historical content painted by Krysochenko, Alexander Kosolapov has several pieces influenced by modernism and pop art as it came to be. His pieces date to the late 1900s, and include pop art portraits similar to Andy Warhol’s pieces. In particular, Kosolapov paints Mikhail Gorbachev in all grey but adds lipstick and eyeliner in bright neon pastels, such as pink and blue, for “Gorby As Mao.” The piece also represents a political aspect, including a play and reference to Mao Zedong.

Lev Meshberg has several pieces displayed at the Sloane Gallery. He mainly uses encaustic, or hot wax paintings, as his medium of choice and paints subjects that are found commonly in everyday life.

In his piece “Still Life With Bread,” he paints a turkey sandwich surrounded by bread and lettuce while sitting untouched on the kitchen counter. The sandwich signifies a universal home, something that can be found anywhere in the world. His work transcends barriers and cultures and can be understood and appreciated across the globe with the consideration of his subject matter.

The gallery appeals to anyone interested in exploring art from a foreign land, and CU Denver students can find refuge easily due to its proximity to Auraria Campus and content variety. American art can sleek and revolutionary, but to view and try to understand artists from Russia makes for an eye-opening experience as it examines different issues, such as communism, politics, and pollution, and their connections to Russian life. As a whole, the gallery and all of its pieces leave the viewer to interpret and analyze, which attempts at understanding Russian aesthetics involved in art-making.

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