The monographic exhibition dedicated to Gely Mikhailovich Korzhev (1925-2012), one of the greatest Soviet artists and the last Russian realist of the 20th century, will open in Magnezit Culture Centre in Satka. The exposition called “The Way To The Picture. Gely Korzhev” invites the visitors to see 150 original artistic and graphic paintings that are now displayed in the leading world museums or make part of private collections.

Gely Korzhev takes a special place in art history. The great success of “Communists” triptych (1960) bought by the State Russian Museum was coincident with his election as the secretary of the Artists Union. Being among the legendary leaders of the sixties generation and in a high nomenclature position, Korzhev managed to retain his individuality as a self-sufficient, integral and artistic person. He never created any politically-motivated paintings and was committed to his own humanistic values. Always responsive to events and challenges of the time, he took on the pain of the dramatic periods in the history of his country. Together with other circumstances, this lead to some kind of reclusion later in his life. In view of this, the wide audience and specialists had formal understanding of Korzhev’s creative work from late 1950s till early 1980s, when Gely painted the art works not intended for the wide audience. 

The first large-scale personal exhibition of Korzhev’s paintings took place in Tretyakov Gallery in 2016, four years after the artist’s death. It brought visitors closer to real understanding of his personality and talent, unveiled the huge artistic potential and true value of the achievements. The exhibits shown in the leading museum of our country dispersed some stereotyped ideas, but at the same time were based on the subjective curatorial understanding of the master’s work and left many problematic issues unsolved. The new exhibition project dedicated to Gely Korzhev is aiming to clarify one of them, more specifically – the issue regarding the methodology of masterpiece creation.

The exhibition for the first time ever shows the original drafts, etudes and drawings that were made by Gely Korzhev in different periods and used to be hidden from the eyes of wide audience. The artist used a very serious approach towards visualization of this deep intentions. Great determination and hard-working nature were his inspiration tools. The exhibition makes it possible to see the twists and turns of this incredibly fascinating artistic process and discover the world-renowned master from the new side. To help visitors orientate themselves in the vast visual space, it is benchmarked with Korzev’s paintings that were eventually recognized as true masterpieces.

The difficult task of representing the entire spectrum of artist’s genres in a confined space of the Culture Centre is solved through the thematic grouping of drawings and their link to the big final picture. Exposition logics is not restricted by the traditional genre borders and follows Korzhev’s art methodology. The artist always used associated meanings to complicate the structure of the artistic image. His portraits always imply a vast historical and philosophic context. Everyday stories become emblematized and turn into aphoristic statements. Mythological and Biblical images give rise to universal moral and ethical discussions. Still-life paintings unveil the invisible presence of a human and give material form to the whole life story.

The exhibition architecture is based on the same blend of genre borders that enables modernization of the classic art system being part of Korzhev’s original method. When thinking about the common fall idea, the museum curators compared the pictures of Russian history (Egorka The Flyer) and the contemporary European life (The Inverted). The historical and philosophic Conversation is flanked by war-echoing paintings: Clouds of 1945 and Anxiety. Old Wounds come as an epilogue to Traces of War series. A social-and-historic still-life painting is placed next to the pictures showing everyday situations, which makes their symbolic meaning even deeper. At the same time, such complicated conceptual groups as the Communists triptych, Don Quixote and Biblical series are shown as non-separable. The vast preparative material helps to see the great attention paid by the artist to the tiniest details of future paintings, different techniques and materials used by him, along with the most careful approach to the desired imagery and its meaning. Korzhev was one of the artists who knew the true value of each line, stroke, or spot, and realized how they take shape of a visual text and transform the author’s statement into a strong illustrative form.  

The exhibition “The Way To The Picture. Gely Korzhev” provides visitors with the unique opportunity to go on a virtual journey to the maker’s and thinker’s workshop and see the birth of the great art works that brought fame to Russian realism.  His powerful paintings are comparable with the best and most famous works of the world art. The special and unique value of Korzhev’s creative work lies in deep dramaturgy of age-old topics, responsiveness and sensitivity to wear and tear of life experienced by his beloved country and nation, scrupulous compliance with the highest moral principles. Korzhev was simultaneously a prophet and a hero, and created his world of images as an open message to humanity.  

Chelyabinsk Region, Satka, 100-Years of Magnezit Plant str., bldg.1, Magnezit Culture Centre.

Gely Korzhev Fund.

Photo by Ksenia Maksimova, Elena Nikitina