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Vladimir Victorovich Kibalchich (Rusakov), Vlady (1920-2005)
Born to Russian revolutionary writer and poet Victor Lvovich Kibalchich (Victor Serge) and his wife Liuba Russakova on June 15, 1920, Vlady, as he later called himself, spent three years with his father in the Gulag (1933-1936). Serge was granted his freedom and the family left Russia for Belgium and then France. During the Nazi invasion of France, Serge and his son fled again, leaving behind Liuba, by then an inhabitant of a psychiatric asylum in Aix-en-Provence, where she died in 1985.
Turned away by Martinique, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the United States because of Serge's Bolshevik activities, they were finally welcomed in Mexico in 1941, months after the murder of Leon Trotsky, who had also found refuge there.
Vlady was fascinated by muralists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, but his first attempts to paint a mural were unsuccessful. He learned how to be a "Mexican" artist by traveling all over the country drawing hundreds of sketches of daily life, villages, peasants, farms, domestic animals, landscapes, etc. He adapted himself to the landscape, the soil, and the light of the country that was to be his new homeland.
In 1947 marked, Victor Serge died of a heart attack and that same year, Vlady married Isabel Díaz Fabela, who would be his companion until his death. Isabel became the primary inspiration for his art, and two years later, Vlady became a Mexican citizen.
With a group of young Mexican painters (Alberto Gironella, Héctor Xavier and José Bartolí, soon to be joined by José Luis Cuevas), Vlady created the Prisse Gallery in 1952. Their common ground was the rejection of the established art with each artist retaining their specific styles. Every month, a new exhibition presented the works of the three founders and their friends. At the time, Vlady explored a near abstract way of painting, but one that was still linked to the elements – sun rays, sea waves, sand on a beach, the trembling of the air. Even when he seemed to turn his back on realism, Vlady maintained links with the elements. The Prisse Gallery only lasted one year, but Mexican art was renewed with some critics later speaking about the "Rupture Generation".
Vlady took long trips to Europe in the 1950s and 1960s (mainly France, Spain and Italy). His artwork was exhibited in Italy, Brazil and Argentina. Thanks to a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation he spent an entire year in New York City (1967-1968) where he met Mark Rothko, who had just finished painting his Houston Chapel. Troubled by Rothko's art, Vlady returned to Mexico and severed all links with the Rupture Generation, now at the pinnacle of its success. From then on, he painted in a realist style. During these years, Vlady painted Trotsky trilogy. The Bolshevik Magiography (1967) is a giant 140-square-foot (13 m2) painting that represents the triumph of Trotsky marching proudly with his fellow comrades on Moscow's Red Square with the Kremlin in the background. La Casa (1973) shows the death of Trotsky with long lines of warriors from all ages: Russian revolutionaries, Zapatista guerrillas, Arab cavalrymen, etc. In the third giant painting, The Instant (1981), Trotsky has disappeared. There only remains a table seized by a sort of frantic dance.
Between 1974 and 1982, Vlady painted the murals of the Miguel Lerdo de Tejada library of the Secretariat of the Treasury of Mexico. Called Revolution and Elements, this 22,000 square feet (2,000 square meters) mural is an heroic ode to revolutions, not only the Russian Revolution, but also the French, the Latin American, the English and the (US) American Revolutions.
Vlady became an Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Arts and later donated 154 etchings to the Orenburg Museum in Russia. On May 17, 2004 he donated another 500 artworks and the rest of his 4,600 works is split between the artist's home and the Centro Vlady in Mexico City. In 2006, a retrospective exhibition of his artwork was held at the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). Under the title "Vlady. La sensualidad y la materia" (Sensuality and Matter) the Palacio presented 500 paintings, watercolors and drawings. In 2007, the Centro Vlady was launched in a building belonging to the Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México (UACM). The new institution makes Vlady's archives accessible to the public.: 318 notebooks, 245 engravings, 63 oil paintings and 376 drawings are being exhibited.
Vlady lived and worked in Mexico City until 1990, when he moved to Cuernavaca, where he already had a country house with a giant studio. He died of cancer in Cuernavaca, on July 21, 2005.
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