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Odessa Museum Of Modern Art


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Hall 1. Oleg Sokolov. Artist, Poet, and Dissident

The forerunner of cultural resistance that arose against Socialist Realism in Odessa became Oleg Arkadevich Sokolov (1919-1990). O. Sokolov was born in Odessa and studied the Odessa Art School (OAS). After returning home from WWI, he continued his studies at the Lviv Institute of Decorative and Applied Arts and then again at the OAS. From 1955 until his death, he worked as a researcher at the Odessa Museum of Western and Oriental Art.

Hall 1 interior
Hall 1 interior

Hall 1 interior
O.Sokolov completes mural memory of the victims of Stalin's repressions
«Ripening of a Girl»
«Exquisite color of life. Tyutchev»
«From a lack of boldness»
«Schubert "Serenade"»
«Science Fiction of Robert Sheckley»
«Аmateur of abstraction»
«Ice Hockey World Championship»
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As early as the beginning of the 50s, and even before the beginning of the Ottepel, O. Sokolov quickly realized the absurdity of Socialist Realism as the only means of cultural development. These views, which subsequently determined O.Sokolov's unique role in Odessian art, were more than likely formed as a result of constant dialogue with professor T.B. Fraerman. A legendary figure, Fraerman belonged to Odessa and French schools of Fine Art, worked with Degas, Rodin, and Matisse, and collaborated with them on a number of exhibitions. Altogether a rarity in the Soviet Odessa, Fraerman appeared to Sokolov as a man from a world completely different. Since Fraerman was banned from lecturing at universities, Sokolov visited him at his house, talked with him, and acquired a profound understanding of freedom and culture.

Oleg Sokolov was a vivid socialite. As early as the beginning of the 60s he surreptitiously founded a club called: Color, Music, Words in the name of M.K. Churlenis. It was one of the first of its kind to be created without (or rather against) the government permission. There club frequenters discussed modern problems of culture without even mentioning politics. But it was still not enough. Soviet authorities nonetheless labeled them as "not in line with our way of thinking."
O. Sokolov was extremely gregarious and loved to get into discussions with people, and as such, he played host to a number of guests, who filled his dilapidated apartment—the Union of Artists refused to provide him with a studio—to the brim every Wednesday. O, who did not visit him there!? Even though many of his artistic contemporaries and colleagues, however, did not accept him, philosophers, scholars, and poets did. They considered him to be an embodiment of the resolution of one of the most pressing orders of the day: the unification of "physicists and lyricists." Philosopher Abner Uyomov and Bulat Okudzhava, Vytautas Landsbergis, social activist and well-known collector George Costakis. Sokolov's work was known far beyond the rods of the Iron Curtain enshrouding Odessa: in Moscow Sokolov's works turned up in Boris Slutsky's and Evgeniy Evtushenko's collections; in Latvia he was famous for the club mentioned early. Finally, the famous theorist of light shows, Bulat Galeev, dedicated a series of articles to the artist.

Sokolov's weltanschauung, especially from the very beginning of his career as an artist, appeared to take form in his most caustic graphics pieces, nearly all caricatures, that were sometimes even political. These pieces were aimed at art critics and administrators more than anyone else. His work Amateur of Abstraction, created in 1951 and now exhibited in MoOMA (Museum of Odessa Modern Art), is a point in case. This piece of artwork drew the author into a number of problems. For a short time afterwards he dared not show his face in public, did not participate in other acts dissidence, (even though he did sign for a number of collective protests), and kept a low profile. But an atmosphere of intellectual and moral freedom pervaded his existence as an artist. Having overturned the prevalent dogmas, he fought for the right to voice his opinions openly. He did not stuff his works into a desk drawer for later release. He gave them to his friends. Creation was the artist's form of protest.

Sokolov knew the art world extremely well. Much of Sokolov's art focused on picturing the "vision" of music. Shubert and Bach, Wagner and Stravinsky, and, of course, Scriabin—these names were sacred for him. His compositions reflect the inner conditions of the soul: listening to the sounds of music, the artist relied upon intuition, juxtaposing sound and light. For instance, Sokolov, in an effort to translate the power of Scriabin's works, took advantage of huge, though not horrific, waves of "melancholy" colours —black, purple, blue. To express the subtle tones of the soul, he created a bizarre contrast of wide, colored spots and lines, in harmony with various tones, ratios of geometric figures, and light rhythms.
Sokolov is considered to be the first Soviet abstractionist from Odessa, even though the scope of his work was much wider. In the 50s and 60s symbolism and modern style dominated his work. During the same period of time, he created an erotic series. Later the artist would use these elements of modernity in his abstractionist’s works.

Abstract art was Sokolov's favorite form of art. During the 60s he sought to replace expressionist color waves with geometric forms: squares, triangles, circles, black and white or clear colors, intersected by segments of straight lines and situated on monochrome surfaces of different compositional ratios. Over time, these techniques became more and more complicated. During this period V. Vazareli and his pop-art influenced Sokolov deeply. The works created during this period are striking for their calligraphic precision and precise proportions and ratios of color.

Sokolov then began to make use of the collage in his works, introducing into his abstract compositions: newspaper clippings and photo elements, numbers and letters, scientific symbols and signs, combining these elements with geometric figures and lines on colored and stained backgrounds.

His most complicated collages became the ones in which Sokolov combined texts (most poems) and painting. It is difficult to say whether these new pieces were new innovations in artistic expression. Sometimes the insertion of texts gave a rhythm and a point of the artist's works. Often times the poems were illustrations that the artist himself wrote. Of particular interest are the works in which Oleg Sokolov expressed himself through poetry, (as he was a deep, extraordinary poet). In such cases, his work was more organic and whole, appearing as something more than just a painting or a poem.

Of particular note is Sokolov's subtle humor and his unusual way of receiving the world. These two things allowed the author to identify sometimes unexpected and sometimes paradoxical communications and associations. It was not in vain that modern scholars have found approach inherent in conceptualism throughout Sokolov's work.
During the 70s Oleg Sokolov arrived at a synthesis of his various methods and approaches. His work became more complicated and unpredictable. Color, form, space, lines, texts, objects—everything was interconnected for him. Music and poetry helped him find suitable means and ways to realize his ideas on paper and find the solutions an artist looks for.

Sokolov succeeded in juxtaposing the limitless material work with a cosmos of feeling. This ability to "hear" feelings, "see" the spiritual life of every subject, runs through his best works.