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Anatoly Krynsky Fine Art - Commentary

Escape from Artistic Repression by Barbara Lake

There is a popular joke in the Soviet Union and it goes like this: “What’s the difference between the naturalists, impressionists, and social-realists?  Naturalists paint what they see, impressionists paint what they feel, and social-realists paint what they are told.” 

Basically, the latter definition means that the work must serve a useful political purpose.  Anatoly Krynsky, who will be showing in Glen Cove (at the Lakewood Gallery this month) asserts that “To work under such circumstances is impossible.”

Mr. Krynsky is a painter who left the USSR with his family four years ago.  “Most artists do not have a chance to exhibit in the Soviet Union,” Krynsky explained, “and must paint in the style of socialist-realist.  An artist who wishes to have his work exhibited must first obtain approval from a special art committee.  The first time he brings a work in, he might get a comment like, ‘this suggests China because there is a dragon in it.’ He returns and gets another comment like. ‘it’s fine, but this part here we don’t like so go do it over again.’ “  This procedure continues until the emasculated final work has finally met the approval of the committee.

Mr. Krynsky was a victim of the 1976 purge which saw up to 100 of the brightest Soviet artistic lights expelled.   He had applied for an exit visa and was promptly fired from his job.  His unemployment lasted six months until he was eventually allowed to leave.  About forty dissident Soviet artists took up residence in New York; another thirty now live in Paris.  According to the artist, “the 1976 purge followed two years of relative liberation” which resulted from the bad publicity the Soviet government received following a particularly heavy-handed show of repression in 1974.  In September of that year, Russian authorities bulldozed an open air exhibit of modernist art in Moscow.  Unfortunately for them, the event was witnessed by western reporters and subsequently played up in the western press.  As Krynsky states, the Moscow exhibit was a “planned provocation by artists” who wanted to get their message across to the west.  Krynsky did not participate in that particular exhibit, but did in many others like it across the Soviet Union.  During the liberalization period, many more exhibits were held.  At one in Moscow, in 1975, people stood in line for three hours to view the works of 165 dissident artists, says Krynsky.  Eventually, though, the authorities figured the best way to solve the problem was to get rid of the ‘troublemakers.’ “They thought Well we won’t have them but at least they won’t bother us,’” Krynsky said in a recent interview.

A brief biographical note: the artist was born in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Siniavin in Leningrad.  He graduated from the Kharkov Art Institute and emigrated to New York in 1976. He has exhibited his work all over the world – Canada, Germany, Holland, Italy, Paris, Sweden, Tokyo.  He is a modernist who embraces pointillist techniques in his semi-abstractions. (Lake, Sunstorm, 1981, p9) 

Barbara Lake is a contributing writer at Sunstorm.