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Exhibition: The Art of Alexander Gassel

On view May 20, 2018 – January 6, 2019, in the Museum auditorium.

The Museum is pleased to announce an exhibition of contemporary paintings by Russian artist Alexander Gassel. Based on traditional Russian artistic values, his surreal work employs a combination of details from different civilizations. Ancient symbols are joined with contemporary subjects to reflect his experience of life in America.

From 1970 to 1980, Gassel worked at the Grabar Center for the Restoration and Preservation of Art in Moscow, restoring and copying medieval tempera paintings and collecting and assessing icons that were at that time being removed from churches across Russia and brought to Moscow for conservation and display.

His own painting style is derived as much from icon painting as it is from his discovery of the suppressed early 20th master of Russian painters such as Chagall, Kandinsky, and Malevich. Art Nouveau, Deco and stylistic European trends were not disseminated during the Soviet period. Gassel describes seeing the works of Chagall and Malevich surreptitiously in storage areas of Soviet museums. It was absolutely forbidden in the Soviet Union to exhibit contemporary religious paintings.
Gassel immigrated to the United States in 1980 with $10 in his pocket and no knowledge of the English language. He was not allowed to bring any of his artwork with him because by law no religious art could leave the country. He found work as a draftsman for a railroad company and painted on weekends. Eventually, he had an exhibition where he sold enough paintings to quit his job and once again work as an artist and icon conservator full-time.