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Oleg Tselkov

16 September - 07 October 2004
The Marble Palace

This exhibition introduces the oeuvre of the Russian artist Oleg Tselkov, an important representative of the Moscow "unofficial art" of the 1960s. He had to leave Russia in 1977. Among the shown works are 22 from the artist's Paris studio, which have never been exhibited in Russia before. The artist plans to give two of the works - Two with Spades and The Meal - as a gift to the State Russian Museum. Oleg Tselkov was born in 1934 in Moscow Region. In 1953, he graduated from the Moscow secondary art school and entered the Minsk Theatre and Art Institute, but was expelled for formalism a year later. The same thing happened in the Leningrad Academy of Arts in 1955. However, in 1958, he managed to graduate from the Leningrad Theatre Institute, which was an island of liberalism in the post-Stalin epoch. Though actively participating in the artistic life of the underground, Oleg Tselkov rarely showed his works at unofficial nonconformist exhibitions, which took place in private flats, in scientific and research institutes, and in culture-houses. This is why, in the 1970s, he participated neither in the famous "bulldozer exhibition" nor in the exhibition "in Izmailovo". In the 1960s, Oleg Tselkov studied the Russian avant-garde art of the early twentieth century, as well as the traditions of French painting. He is fond of Léger, Primitivists, Rembrandt and Bacon, Mexicans Orozco and Rivera. However, it was Surrealism which came as a real discovery for him, as well as for many artists of his generation. Talking of the point when he found his own artistic way, the artist recalls a moment when, in 1960, he accidentally painted a peculiar human face. "I painted a kind of portrait; this was not a portrait of some definite person, but of everyone in one face, and awfully familiar". Oleg Tselkov's works all include very different components. There are elements of the theatre of absurd in his oeuvre, as well as tragic buffoonery. The artist invents his own theatre, where inflatable rubber puppets, looking like homuncula, perform various scenes - funny, terrible and tragic. The somnambulistic atmosphere of his paintings is matched by a mysterious luminescence of colours, and a slight vibration of the background, created with the use of the barely noticeable relief of the canvases. Oleg Tselkov's works can be found in the State Russian Museum, Zimmerly Art Museum (New Jersey, USA) and in public and private collections in Russia, USA, France and Japan. A catalogue for the exhibition has been published.