May 17th, 2024

Artist-in-Residence Boris Danilov Offers a Glimpse of His Art Before His First Solo U.S. Exhibition

By MoCA-Americas Team

Boris Danilov, a Ukrainian master in the arts of ceramics and porcelain and a resident of the Fine Arts Ceramic Center, visited the museum on the morning of Thursday the 16th to deliver some of the pieces for his first solo exhibition in the United States. The exhibition features a collection of hand-painted plates and decorative mosaics crafted and produced in the FACC workshops. His works exhibit a style of figuration rarely seen in the West. Heir to the characteristic visual style of 20th-century Soviet art and the long tradition of Ukrainian ceramics, and possessing a powerful personal poetics, he will showcase his art to our community in the temporary gallery of MoCAA in January 2025.

What one might expect from a Ukrainian artist who spent a significant part of his life under the banner and ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is notably absent in both his themes and formal style. Only with careful attention can one perceive the subtle traces left by the political and social context in which he began his career. His work bears no resemblance to Socialist Realism, the official artistic movement promoted by the Soviet government, which was characterized by the idealized representation of everyday life, labor, and the achievements of the Soviet people and state. The works of this repetitive and insistent style often depicted heroes of labor, peasants, soldiers, and scenes of work and agriculture. The aim was to inspire and educate the populace, extolling the values of socialism and communism through detailed and realistic representations, avoiding abstract symbolism and formal distortions. Art was intended to be accessible and comprehensible to the masses.

This extraordinary creator’s imagination dives into abstract symbolism, occasionally incorporating figurative elements that often form rhythmic formal patterns. While Socialist Realism served as a tool for political propaganda with a utilitarian purpose, needing to be legible and relatively straightforward, surrealistic and dreamlike expressions were considered decadent and counter-revolutionary. With possibly very limited access to information and the study of major artistic movements of the century, divergent Soviet artists had no choice but to symmetrically negate the official tenets and interests of the institution of Art

Thus, Soviet artists who began their work after Stalin's death, during Khrushchev's thaw, created pieces and generated poetics where a degree of cultural liberalization could be perceived. However, like a very intense species, some projections of this often hyperbolic art acquired the very essences they sought to reject.

Many of the works that came to light during the times of real socialism reflected the utopian aspirations of the ruling political class. They aimed to dominate the narrative of the past and the future. These works focused on creating scenarios where the ideals of socialism had been fully realized and poverty, inequality, and oppression had been eradicated. Their narratives often explored the tension between the collective values of socialism and individualism, highlighting the importance of community and cooperation. Above all, they recreated environments where science and technology, as liberating forces, had shaped a perfect society that had transcended earthly boundaries to extend across the galaxy.

Monumentality as a synonym for technological progress and the definitive acceptance of the communist ideal manifested in all areas. Much of this legacy underlies the aesthetics of Boris Danilov. Nevertheless, without seeing the entirety of his exhibit, deeper analyses remain premature. For although his creations retain the spirit of their time, they also encapsulate much of his personal history and the fractures he has lived through.

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