Artists showing works in the international exhibition at Glendale's Silvana Gallery of Fine Art and Crafts have produced contemporary pieces using a wide range of media — sculptures in wood, bronze, clay or copper, paintings in oil, acrylic, or watercolor and handcrafted jewelry. They are expertly presented by gallery director and founder Silvana Ambar.
Many artists in this exhibition are of Russian or Armenian descent. Before the 1980s, Russian artists were employed by the state and their art was restricted, conformed to a rubric, that did not include self-expression or iconography. During the 1980s Mikhail Gorbachev's radical reformation included an attitude of respect for personal dignity. Freedom to develop a gallery system allowed commodification of Russian art and exposure to Western art.
These opportunities were seminal to the development of artists from that region, freeing them to shape their own styles, blending formal techniques taught in the Soviet style, with their own intrinsic creativity, resulting in some of the highest-quality artwork the world offers. The exhibition at the Silvana Gallery represents more than a cluster of great artists. It is evidence of progress, of artistic expansion.
Savva, a Moscow-born artist, was trained in some of the finest art schools in Russia. The Moscow Art School and the Stroganov Institute of Art both contributed to his early painting and drawing education. The first application for his formal training was in animation and illustration. His ability was recognized and led to the United States and a career in development design for television and feature film projects.
He contributed to several Nickelodeon animated productions and ultimately became art director on the second Rugrats film, "Rugrats in Paris." Savva never subordinated his fine arts during his 12 years in animation.
Vestiges of his experience painting backgrounds for Disney are evident in his piece titled "Venice," an antique bronze and acrylic painting on canvas. The painting is large at 40 by 66 inches. Architectural elements, arches and balustrades, are layered together with graphic lightening bolts, giving action and energy to an otherwise classical architectural rendering. Blacks, browns and bronzes bring gravity to a technique that could be described as postmodern Art Deco. It is a unique style and a serious marriage between animation and fine art.
Another artist affected by entertainment arts and displaying in the current exhibition is Russian-born Olga Geoghegan. This artist's formal training is in painting and theatrical decoration. Silvana displays Geoghegan's painting, oil on canvas, titled "Winter Morning." The cool palette of blues and grays gives the sense of a cold beginning. A female figure emerges from a choppy impasto texture, as though she were chiseled out of ice. She sets about her labor joylessly. It is an emotive painting, expressing an attitude that would not have met the approval of the former Soviet academics. The technique is incredible.
Armenian artist Tigran Hovoumyan was trained at the Yerevan Art School of H. Kojoyan, later to become a professor of painting and sculpture. His colorful oil paintings are fantastical narratives, with compositions full of Dali-like cloud figures and exaggerated proportions. The artist's piece titled "Qrmuhl" is loaded with symbolic imagery; disembodied head and hybrid creatures seem unrelated and incite the imagination.
The artists presented in this gallery have exhibited all over the world with pieces in museums and private collections. It is exciting to see the work of so many accomplished contemporary artists under one roof.
TERRI MARTIN has a degree in art history and a background in fine arts.
What: Contemporary art exhibition
When: Continues through Aug. 28
Where: The Silvana Gallery, 1731 W. Glenoaks Blvd., Suite 200, Glendale
Contact: (818) 662-7070 or go to http://www.silvanagallery.com