The Harriman Institute Presents
The Untold Stories of Russian History
by Mikhail Magaril
Monday–Friday, 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
March 21st through May 6th, 2022
Harriman Institute Atrium
420 W 118th St, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10027
Mikhail Magaril’s exhibition Untold Stories of Russian History will be held at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University, from March 21 to May 6, 2022. The exhibition is part of a long-term collaboration between the Harriman Institute and the Russian-American Cultural Center (RACC) for the presentation of Russian immigrant artists in New York.
Mikhail Magaril specializes in the artist’s handmade book. He firmly believes that every person, especially an artist, is a living capsule of time, preserving a unique experience and viewpoint waiting to be discovered and passed on to the world.
This exhibition consists of twenty-three original works, including painting, relief, sculpture, graphic works and collages that reflect the main theme of his work; namely, the traumatic experience of an atmosphere of fear in the Stalinist USSR as seen through the eyes of a child. For Magaril, the artistic process is a way to overcome fear and horror. The use of irony, laughter and mockery help to debunk the “greatness” and “holiness” of tyrants of the past and present.
The strong visual imagery of the works is based on the power of the Suprematist use of primary colors and shapes, combined with the iconoclastic approach of Sots Art with its provocative and playful manipulation of political subjects. References to a folk aesthetic and kinetic children’s toys allow the artist to reveal the utter flatness of mass consciousness through seemingly harmless devices.
The exhibition is part of the RACC program dedicated to the 100th anniversary of UNOVIS (Affirmers of New Art), a group of teachers and students of the Vitebsk Art School, created under the leadership of Kazimir Malevich to explore new ideas and theories in art, experiment with collective creativity and build a new system of teaching the avant-garde art that preceded the Bauhaus. The group included such figures as El Lissitzky, Nina Kogan, Vera Ermolaeva, Lazar Khidekel, Ilya Chashnik and Evgenia Magaril, one of the female members of Unovis and a student of Malevich. Mikhail Magaril was brought up as an artist in this tradition, which he received firsthand from Evgenia Markovna Magaril.
Mikhail Magarill emigrated from the Soviet Union over thirty years ago. He became an eminently accomplished book artist and, paradoxically, the books feature almost no text. This radical departure from his previous work, his far from arbitrary exploration of new directions, represents the culmination of his career and is the result of thoughtful reflection on the formative experience of his worldview; namely, his life in the post-dystopia of the Stalinist Soviet Union.