Oil pastel over watercolor on paper 101.5x73 cm
Courtesy of the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey The Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union Photograph by Jack Abraham
Andrei Gennadiev’s art frequently returns to the theme of the mask or disguise that separates the inner world of Soviet citizens from their external or public demeanor. For Gennadiev, sometimes such masks are worn voluntarily, as a form of self-protection from scrutiny. More often, however, they are imposed from above. Untitled creates an unsettling effect through its depiction of a cartoon-like character silenced and blinded with the rope often used to tie prisoners’ hands. The resulting mix of horror and absurdity seeks to destabilize the ability of the viewer to discover singular messages and morals in the artwork, a tactic many Soviet underground artists adopted in response to the didacticism of official art.
The art of contemporary Sankt-Petersburg artist Andrei Gennadiev blends old Russian traditions with modern twentieth-century expression. Influences upon him range from iconography of Byzantine art to the metaphysical concepts of those Sankt-Petersburg artists who became known as "The Sankt-Petersburg Group". Indeed, the "programme" of the latter group states that "the icon is the most complete and perfect form of the revelation of Beauty of the world. It was they desire to create a new style of painting based on icon's harmonious beauty of design, depth of lyrical feeling and bright, complex colour relationships.
Mysticism, which permeates Russian art and thinking also pervades Gennadiev's work. The artist's striving to preserve spiritual values,to penetrate, aesthetic, ethical, and religious strata of life is summed up in his declaration that: " Art is an intermediary between the soul and the surrounding world. It should give man opportunity to explore himself and to better evaluate the events that overtake him