alexei remizov's 'creative act'

Thursday 24 November 2011
16.00 - 17.30, Research Forum South Room

Photograph of Alexei Remizov, Berlin, 1923
Photograph of Alexei Remizov (detail), Berlin, 1923. Image courtesy of the Institute of Russian Literature (IRLI)
Speaker(s): Julia Friedman (Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: John Milner (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Dr. Friedman’s paper will present the work of an extraordinary Russian writer and artist Alexei Remizov (1877–1957), whose visionary crossing of media lines, risqué choice of subjects that range from phallic possession to shamanistic ecstasy, and refusal to simplify his writings to secure popularity with the general public foreshadowed attitudes of late 20th-century and contemporary art. A participant in the Russian symbolist movement, an intellectual ally of the cubo-futurists, and, during his émigré years (he left Russia in 1921), a collaborator with Berlin’s Der Sturm circle and the French surrealists, Remizov was unique in his ability to combine symbolist mysticism, futurist disruptiveness, and surrealist introspection. Yet, this great modernist eccentric has remained largely unknown to Western audiences, his remarkable artistic legacy still very much lost in translation.

Although Remizov’s original prose has entered the Russian literary canon by the 1920s, his artistic capacity was fully realized only after his experimentations with words and images culminated in a writing process that relied as much on drawing as it did on language. During the 1930s and 40s he produced hundreds of handmade illustrated albums that combine text with collages and illustrations in watercolor and india ink. These albums represent a threshold of word and image that enabled Remizov’s entry into a world of genuinely synthetic art. The medium of drawing offered him a novel mode of expression, unburdened by his enviable writer’s work ethic, and provided just the right formal outlet for the unrestrained and unrestrainable content of his art.

Julia Friedman is a Russian-born art historian, writer and curator. She received her Ph.D. in Art History from Brown University in 2005 specializing in 19th and 20th century art. At present she is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (Arizona State University) where she teaches modern and contemporary art history, and a regular contributor to Artforum magazine. Her illustrated monograph Beyond Symbolism and Surrealism: Alexei Remizov’s Synthetic Art was just published by Northwestern University Press earlier this year. This long-overdue study revises the place of the maverick artist Alexei Remizov (1877–1957) in Russian and European Modernism through an examination of his remarkable graphic oeuvre. For more information please visit:

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