Hudojnik by Steven M. Nesbit


The Life and Art of Ivan I. Garikow
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An introduction to a forgotten Russian painter and his work.

Nesbit, in his debut, begins this first-ever scholarly treatment of Ivan Garikow’s work by recounting the opening of a Florida storage locker. Garikow’s paintings, as well as his cremated remains, were in the locker, which narrowly escaped the eerily named Hurricane Ivan, which tore through Florida in 2004. The tale of a neglected artist’s work languishing in storage is sadly familiar, and Garikow’s life story is similarly grim. He was born in rural poverty in 1918 and later was all but homeless as a student at Leningrad’s Repin Academy; he went on to become a Nazi prisoner during World War II. He had a brief period of relative success and stability in Salzburg after the war—state commissions, marriage, a child—but his decision to emigrate to the United States and pursue the American dream proved to be his undoing. Nesbit effectively relates Garikow’s personal history, bleak as it is, as the artist became one of Philadelphia’s many lost souls in the 1970s. When the book strives for more than biography, however, it’s less successful. Nesbit acknowledges the contributions of Brittany E. Ober, the art historian of the Garikow Project, and praises her establishment of a catalog and body of scholarship for Garikow’s paintings. However, the book isn’t organized like a traditional catalogue raisonné; instead, it provides an idiosyncratic, perplexing array of tables, appendices and uncaptioned images. The analysis is uneven at best, varying from elementary-level art education (“Historically, male artists painted portraits…of the women they most admired physically, or loved”) to oblique name-dropping (“He uses Manet-like brushstrokes in the water”). The paintings themselves are also uneven in quality, but there are some gems, particularly the city- and landscapes. A broader treatment—more deeply mining Garikow’s academic experience at Repin, the tension between Garikow’s approach and dominant trends in postwar American art, and the tastes of Garikow’s patrons and promoters—would have served these works better.

Short on art-historical substance, but nevertheless, a valuable record of an overlooked artist. 

Pub Date: May 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1478335849
Page count: 164pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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