Opening February 22
Konstantin Simun: The Sacred in the Profane
Presented in partnership with the Fitchburg Art Museum
Konstantin Simun often poses the question “trash or treasure?” when speaking of his sculptures. Simun asks us to see spiritual images in banal plastic vessels such as milk jugs and crates. He accomplishes this through a slight alteration to the original form, a shift in orientation, or the fusing of one object with another. These objects are so ubiquitous and ordinary that we rarely stop to consider their formal qualities, let alone contemplate them as symbolic or transcendent objects. Simun’s fascination with plastic did not diminish over the years, and he continues to create artworks not only from plastic, but also in traditional materials like bronze, silver, and ceramic that replicate the visages that he sees in plastic.
The Sacred in the Profane offers a survey of Simun’s unique capacity to find forms that appear in ancient art and Christian iconography in molded plastic and other consumer objects since his arrival to the United States from Russia in the early 1980s. Viewed within the Museum of Russian Icons, it is possible to contemplate Simun’s exposure to the icon tradition, as well as to consider the way in which Simun’s story of discovery and fascination with plastic parallels the MoRI’s founder and former president of Nypro Plastics Gordon B. Lankton’s connoisseurship of icons.
OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday, February 21, 6:00-8:00pm. Museum of Russian Icons and Fitchburg Art Museum Members FREE, Nonmembers $15. Register by clicking the link below or calling 978.598.5000 x121.
Matryoshki in Winter
October 19, 2018 – February 17, 2019
The mini-exhibition, Matryoshka in Winter, features a selection of nesting dolls from the Museum’s collection that celebrates Russian winter and the Christmas season. Some dolls in this exhibit tell the story of Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden who is said to bring joy and presents to children on New Year’s Eve. Other themes will include Santa Claus, nutcrackers, and the joyful activities of Russian winter.
The bright colors, distinctive shapes, and creative concepts of Russian nesting dolls have delighted children and adults alike for over a century. The toys are recognized around the world as the quintessential Russian souvenir. Contemporary independent matryoshka artists developed unique and creative styles, taking their work beyond traditional patterns and themes. Transcending the boundaries of conventional Matryoshka production, they elevated the medium from a craft to fine art.
Nesting dolls make an entertaining medium for storytelling and artists sometimes paint detailed pictures on each doll so that the story progresses as the matryoshka is opened, depicting elaborate stories from the daily lives of Russians to famous fairy tales.
The Art of Alexander Gassel
May 20, 2018 – February 24, 2019
The Museum will be exhibiting the contemporary paintings of Russian-American artist and designer Alexander Gassel, May 20, 2018 – January 6, 2019. Blending the avant-garde with traditional Russian iconography, combining ancient symbols with contemporary subjects, Gassel creates surrealist works that reflect his cultural heritage alongside his experience of life in America.
Gassel’s painting style is derived as much from icon painting as it is from his discovery of the early 20th Russian painters such as Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, and Kazimir Malevich. During the Soviet period, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and other stylistic European trends were suppressed. Gassel (1947), who was born and raised in Moscow, describes seeing the works of Chagall and Malevich surreptitiously in storage areas of Soviet museums. Additionally, it was forbidden in the Soviet Union to exhibit contemporary religious paintings.
In his work, Gassel uses ancient techniques employed in the creation of icon paintings. He paints with egg yolk tempera, making his color pigments by grinding natural stones and minerals, such as malachite, cinnabar, or lapis into powder, which he then mixes with egg yolk. The artist often applies gold or silver leaf on the paintings.