Rubric: Art Books - Contemporary Art
Authors: John E. Bowlt, Jean Chauvelin, Nadia Filatoff, Dimytro Horbachov
With 600 illustrations and paintings
The place of Alexandra Exter (1882-1949) in the history of modern art has only begun to be sketched. During the last decade, critics', museums', galleries' and collectors' homage to her work has been significantly growing all over the world. However, fully appreciating Exter's originality seems possible only in a general perspective, rather than through brief and sometimes partial studies on certain aspects of her work. This assertion is the driving force behind the present Monograph.
Alexandra Exter striked outright with an almost preternatural guess of what modern art should and would be: as early as 1907, at twenty-five years old, she commuted between Russia and France to bring back to her Russian friends the first photogaphs of Picasso’s cubist paintings ever seen in her country, along with an enthusiasm for modern art wide enough to encompass artists as eclectic as the Ukrainian Archipenko and the Italian Medardo Rosso. As her circle of acquaintances, which included prominent artists such as Apollinaire, Gide, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Bergson, was lenting more and more weight to her proselytizing, art came to invade even her private life when she became the companion of the futurist Italian painter Ardengo Soffici. A truly European woman who could recite by heart whole passages of Rimbaud, Exter exhibited her trademark pictures of sumptuous and dancing cities together with her companions of the Knave of Diamonds group.
During exhibitions at the Section d’Or in Paris in 1912, where Exter's paintings were hung alongside staunch Cubists' such as Gleizes and Le Fauconnier, her interpretations of French Cubism struck the audience as very personal - Pont de Sèvres (1911) and Cities (1912). Living in Montparnasse, well acquainted with Futurism through Soffici, she exhibited her works in Rome in 1914 with the Italian Futurists. Cosmopolitan to the bone, she was yet careful not to lose her 'Slavic flavour' and, the following year, participated to the now mythical Russian Futurism exhibition Tramway V, held in Petrograd. With Popova, Stepanova and Rodchenko, she would later sign the manifesto of another historical event: the 5 x 5 = 25 exhibit held in 1921. Set up as a figurehead of Russian Cubo-Futurism, she nevertheless kept a keen eye on the Constructivist and Suprematist ventures of Malevitch and Tatline, and it is an established fact that Lissitzky often visited her workshop in Kiev.
Alexandra Exter’s creative energy spread to the stage. She stunned and shook the traditional visions of art by using light as a material in itself and by designing mobile stages and flamboyant costumes. From 1923 on, she directed her innovative genius to a wider urban scene, especially to the trade and industry exhibitions of Moscow and the decoration of the Izvestia’s and Krasnaïa Niva’s pavilions. Her successful movie Aélita by Protozanov displays unbelievable futuristic sets and costumes; it earned her a Golden Medal in Paris in 1925.
A great artist, a remarkable woman, Alexandra Exter was worth of the company she kept - Malevitch, Kandinsky, Lissitzky, Chagall and Zadkine. Expatriated in France in 1924, she died in her adoptive country in 1949.