From Icon to Abstraction

Goncharova, Kruchenykh ± Rozanova and The Great War

SEPTEMBER 26, 2014 – FEBRUARY 15, 2015

Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Russian neo-Primitivist artist Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962) created a series of 14 black-and-white crayon lithographs titled “War: Mystical Images of War.” Her prints are rooted in the imagery of Russian icons, history, Apocalypse imagery, folk art, and contemporary warfare. Two years later, in his book “Universal War,” Russian avant-garde artist Alexei Kruchenykh (1886-1968) envisioned war as a series of counterbalanced geometric forms. In this set of editioned series of 12 cut paper and fabric collages, he evokes a cosmic battle in the year 1985 rather than depict the current war. His collages were directly inspired by the work of Olga Rozanova (1886-1918). Zaum “trans-rational” poetry by Kruchenykh accompanies the collages. This exhibition compares these avant-garde Russian artists’ Modernist visions of war. Collector Louise Noun, who gave the prints and collages to the Des Moines Art Center, will be highlighted in the exhibition publication through her interest in avant-garde women artists of the 20th century.

This exhibition is organized by Amy N. Worthen, curator of prints and drawings.

Natalia Goncharova (Russian, 1881-1962)
The Doomed City, from “Mystical Images of War,” 1914
Lithograph on paper, 12 5/8 x 9 ½ inches
Des Moines Art Center’s Louise Noun Collection of Art by Women through Bequest, 2003.316.11

entirely unexpected