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Lydia Masterkova (1927-2008). Composition, 1962. Oil on Canvas. The Irina Stolyarova Collection, UK.
By Joel Ney

LONDON.- Highlights from the Irina Stolyarova Collection are featured in a specially-designed cloth-bound hardcover published in an oversized yet very elegant format, discreetly apparently a contemporary indirect inspiration from Kazimir Malevich's "Red Square" (an artwork coincidentally celebrating its centennial, like its more famous cousin work "Black Square," both having been created by the legendary Avant-garde visionary artist in 1915).

Many important Russian-born painters, including but not limited to those associated with the Nonconformist movements to even the École de Paris [School of Paris], are represented with some formidable pieces from each of their respective careers. The far-reaching scope of artists whose works are in seen here is impressive: the collection boasts works by André Lanskoy (1902-1976) to Vladimir Yankilevsky (b. 1938).

One of the many giants of this particular art genre, whose works are included in the Irina Stolyarova collection, is an exceptionally representative piece by Viktor Pivovarov (b. 1937) - whose 2001 part-memoir, part-artist's project 'Agent in Love' has been recently re-released in an updated, reportedly heavily-revised edition - is "Blue Composition" [1974]. Pivovarov is currently being celebrated through June 18, 2016 in the exhibition "Pivovarov: The Snail's Trail" at one of Moscow's top privately-funded art centers, The GARAGE Museum of Contemporary Art as well as in "Pivovarov's Lost Keys" at The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts through May 15, 2016.

The late Vladimir Nemukhin (1925-2016), who passed away last month, is well-represented here by a monumental mixed media canvas, "Starfire" [1992]. The work originates from the well-known ABA Gallery, which had famously shown the legendary dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov's personal art collection in 2012 before it was gifted the following year to the not-for-profit landmark institution Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC).

Two works from different periods of the career of the master painter Lydia Masterkova (1927-2008) are included, bearing the same title but markedly individual in their vision and aesthetic approach, with "Composition" [1965] and "Composition" [1970].

Another master painter from the Nonconformist era of the Soviet Union is showcased via the scarce piece "London-3" [1962], an indelible image captured in an oil on canvas by Oscar Rabin (b. 1928).

While works by some of the best known giants in Russian art history obviously catch the eye first and naturally appear to dominate this album, equal care is allocated to works by lesser known artists whose names have yet to be more widely recognized, such as Pierre Dmitrienko (1925-1974) and Natasha Arendt (b. 1959). Ms. Stolyarova wrote in response to comment on this essay that Dmitrienko had been a student of Lanskoy's, and, while certainly not an art world name yet as his famous teacher, she believes his works to be even deeper and noteworthy than that of his renown mentor. Three of Dmitrienko's most notable works are in the collection, likely his most notable paintings from the 1950's.

Additional praise is due for the visible painstaking effort in preparing this volume, as in this publication each work is detailed, with its reported history of provenance accompanying each painting as well as exhibition catalogues or art books where each particular piece also may have appeared or are referenced.

The publication's namesake - who painstakingly sought out and collected these very carefully selected artworks - decidedly gave this publication the title "Flying In The Wake Of Light" - a tribute to a memorable line from a late 1937 piece by one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century, Osip Mandelstam (1898-1938) - in a gesture to show Ms. Stolyarova's genuine enthusiasm for the art of painting as an ultimate form of artistic expression.

Original texts have been contributed by some of foremost authors in the field: John E. Bowlt, Professor, Department of Slavic Languages at University of Southern California; Alexander Borovsky, pioneering head of the department of Contemporary Art at The State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Alexander Rappoport, the architect and a well-known cultural figure and art critic of the Russian Federation today. [Ed. note: not to be confused with the late artist Alek Rapoport (1933-1997).]

The book has been distributed free of charge primarily to scholarly institutes and libraries, including the Institute of Modern Russian Culture (IMRC) at the University of Southern California, The New York Archive of Contemporary Russian Art (NYACRA) as well as the 'MediaTeka' Archive & Library at the National Center for Contemporary Arts (NCCA) under the auspices of the Russian Federation's Ministry of Culture in Moscow.

Since this publication went to print, Irina Stolyarova's collection has grown. Acquisitions include more works the aforementioned Masterkova, pieces by Boris Sveshnikov (1927-1998), Ivan Chuikov (b. 1935), and a triptych by the late painter Oleg Vassiliev (1931-2013). As Borovsky writes in his contribution to this volume: "Irina Stolyarova's collection keeps growing. It is full of promise of new discoveries and new collecting stories."

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