The Institute of Modern Russian Culture

at the University of Southern California presents:

Михаил Карасик

Mikhail Karasik


Книга Художника - Artist's Books at IMRC

Mikhail Karasik and the Artist's Book



Notes on the Authors



Joseph Brodsky  (1940-1996)

Brodsky was a Russian poet and essayist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature (1987) and was chosen Poet Laureate of the United States (1991-1992).  Brodsky was born in Leningrad in 1940 and began writing his own poetry and producing literary translations around 1957.  His writings were apolitical.  The young Brodsky was encouraged and influenced by the poet Anna Akhmatova.  In 1963, he was arrested and in 1964 charged with parasitism by the Soviet authorities.  Brodsky was sentenced to five years of internal exile with obligatory physical work, but the sentence was commuted in 1965 after prominent Soviet and foreign literary figures protested.  On June 4, 1972 Brodsky was expelled from the USSR.  He became a U.S.  citizen in 1977.  He achieved major successes in his career as an English language poet and essayist, and in 1991 Brodsky became Poet Laureate of the United States.  Brodsky died of a heart attack on January 28, 1996.  A recurring theme in Brodsky's writing is the relationship between the poet and society.  In particular, Brodsky emphasized the power of literature to positively impact its audience and to develop the language and culture in which it is situated.  He suggested that the Western literary tradition was in part responsible for the world having overcome the catastrophes of the twentieth century.    


Oleg Grigoriev (1943-1992)

Although his poetry was never published in his lifetime, Oleg Grigoriev was a spirited followed of the 1930s OBERIU group. 


Khabias  (Nina Komarova, 1922.)


Daniil Kharms (1905-1942)

In 1928, Daniil Kharms founded the avant-garde collective OBERIU, or Union of Real Art.  Kharms was arrested in 1931, and was in exile from his hometown (forced to live in the city of Kursk) for most of a year.  He was arrested as a member of "a group of anti-Soviet children's writers." Soviet authorities, having become increasingly hostile toward the avant-garde in general, deemed Kharms’ writing for children anti-Soviet because of its absurd logic and its refusal to instill materialist Soviet values.  He continued to write for children's magazines when he returned from exile, though his name would appear in the credits less often.  Of course, his plans for more performances and plays were curtailed, the OBERIU disbanded, and Kharms receded into a very private writing life.  He wrote for the desk drawer, for his wife, Marina Malich, and for a small group of friends, the “Chinari,” who met privately to discuss matters of philosophy, music, mathematics, and literature.  In the 1930s, as the mainstream Soviet literature was becoming more and more conservative under the guidelines of Socialist Realism, Kharms found refuge in children's literature.  (He had worked under Marshak at DetGIz, the state-owned children's publishing house since the mid-1920s, writing new material and translating children literature from the west, including Wilhelm Busch's Max and Moritz).  Many of his poems and short stories for children, published in the Chizh (Чиж), Yozh (Еж), Sverchok (Сверчок) and Oktyabryata (Октябрята) magazines, are considered classics of the genre and his roughly twenty children's books are well known and loved by kids to this day, whereas his "adult" writing was not published during his lifetime.  Still, these were lean times and his honorariums didn't quite pay the bills, plus the editors in the children's publishing sector were suffering under extreme pressure and censorship and some were disposed of during Stalin's purges.  Thus, Kharms lived in debt and hunger for several years until his final arrest on suspicion of treason in the summer of 1941 (most people with a previous arrest were being picked up by the NKVD in those times).  He was imprisoned in the psychiatric ward at Leningrad Prison No.  1.  and died in his cell in February, 1942 -- most likely, from starvation, as the Nazi blockade of Leningrad had already begun.  His work was saved from the war by loyal friends and hidden until the 1960s when his children’s writing became widely published and scholars began the job of recovering his manuscripts and publishing them in the west and in samizdat.


Timur Kibirov  (1955–)

Kibirov studied to become a teacher of Russian language and literature, and graduated from the N.  K.  Krupskaia Moscow Regional Pedagogical Institute.   From 1975 to 1977 he served in the Soviet army.   He began to gain acclaim as an underground poet in the 1980s, although his work — with its frequently ironic portrayals of the absurdities of Soviet life, its nastiness and comedy, its tender and unbearable routines — could not be published during Soviet times.   Since the early 1990s however he has published and read widely, becoming one of contemporary Russia's most recognized poets.


Victor Krivulin (1945-2001)

Born in Krasnodon, Ukraine, Krivulin studied Italian, English, and Literature of Russian Modernism at Leningrad University from 1961 to 1967.   Krivulin was also the co-editor of journal 37 from December 1975-1981.


Boris Kudryakov


Leonid Lipavsky  (1904-1941)

Leonid Lipavsky was a children's writer under the name of Leonid Savelyev and an amateur mathematician and author of philosophical tracts.   Lipavsky studied philosophy and social studies at the Petrograd university.  At the same time he began researching the different texts influencing this book.   During 1933 - 1934 the author discussed issues and questions of concern with his friends, such the world alive, human existence, types of love and measurements of love, horror, and the cause of fear.


Nikolay Oleinikov  (1898-1942)

Oleinikov was a Russian poet.   He was born into a prosperous cossack family.  In March 1918 he volunteered to enter the Red Army.


Elena Shvarts  (1948 –)

Born in 1948 and brought up in Leningrad, Elena Shvarts began a course in literature at the University, but found studying there too boring for her to stand it for more than a year.   Though she eventually did complete a course of higher education, graduating from the Theatre Institute in 1973, she considers herself to be entirely self-educated.  Three collections of her poetry were published in the West during the 1980s, and a considerable body of her work has been translated into other European languages.  Her first Soviet collection, however, appeared only in 1990, though readings and unofficial publications had made her work known to large numbers of Russian poetry lovers before that.


Igor Terentiev


Orest Tiesenhausen


Churilin Tikhon (1885-1946)


Alexander Tufanov


Konstantin Vaginov (1899—1934)

Vaginov was a Russian poet.  In the 1920s he was a member of almost all poetic groups of Saint Petersburg.  In 1921 he joined the Nikolai Gumilyov's Guild of Poets.   Born in St. Petersburg in 1899, his mother was the daughter of a wealthy Siberian businessman and landowner.  His father, a high-ranking police official, was descended from Germans who came to Russia in the 17th century.  During the First World War, the family name was changed from "Wagenheim" and given a Russian ending.  Following his father's wishes, Vaginov studied law.  During the Civil War, Vaginov served in the Red Army, both at the Polish front and east of the Urals.  He returned to Petrograd and continued studies in the arts and humanities.  In 1926 he married Alexandra Ivanovna Fedorova.  She and Vaginov were both part of a group of writers who gathered about the poet, world traveler and decorated war hero, Nikolai Gumilyov, who was shot in 1921, after being wrongly accused of plotting against the government.   During the 1920s, Vaginov had some contact with most of the major literary circles in Petrograd/Leningrad.  In 1927, he became affiliated with a left avant-garde collective of writers known as The Association of Real Creativity (in Russian, by the acronym "OBERIU"), sometimes described as "Absurdist" and chiefly known through the work of Daniil Kharms.  Around this time, Vaginov's turn to prose was marked by a drift toward a preoccupation of Surrealism--the throwaway mythology of everyday life.  A man who devoured literature in multiple languages from various centuries, Vaginov was an avid collector of books--many of them salvaged from ransacked libraries and peddled second-hand on the street.  But he also was a collector of anything from old coins to candy wrappers and cigarette packs.  While some of his characters (not entirely unlike Russia's collector monarchs) collected things having at least an association with high culture, Vaginov explored the intersection between the mutability of matter and minds haunted by monuments, even those in ruins.


 Bakhterev Igor Vladimirovich (1908-1996)

Igor Bakhterev, a prose writer and dramaturg, was born in St. Petersburg and was arrested in 1931 for being a member of an anti-Soviet literary faction.  He worked as an editor at children’s journals and newspapers.


Anri Volokhonsky


Alexander Ivanovich Vvedensky (1904–1941)

Vvedensky was a Russian poet with formidable influence on "unofficial" and avant-garde art during and after the times of the Soviet Union.  Vvedensky is widely considered (among contemporary Russian writers and literary scholars) as one of the most original and important authors to write in Russian in the early Soviet period.   Vvedensky was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and took an interest in poetry at an early age.  An admirer of Velemir Khlebnikov, Vvedensky sought apprenticeships with writers connected to Russian Futurism.  In the early 1920s he studied with well-known avant-garde artists from Futurist circles such as Matiushin and Tufanov and Terentiev, at the newly formed state arts school (headed up by Kazimir Malevich).   In Tufanov's sound-poetry circle he met Daniil Kharms, with whom he went on to found the OBERIU group in 1928.  Together Kharms and Vvedensky, along with several other young writers, actors, and artists, staged various readings, plays, and cabaret-style events in Leningrad in the late 1920s.  Vvedensky, as written in the OBERIU manifesto, was considered the most radical poet of the group.   Vvedensky, like Kharms, worked in children's publishing to get by, and was also quite accomplished in the field.  He wrote vignettes for children's magazines, translated books of children's literature, and wrote several children's books of his own.   He was arrested for a short while in 1931–1932 on charges of belonging to a faction of anti-soviet children's writers.  During interrogations he was also accused of encoding anti-soviet messages in "zaum" or sound poetry.


Nikolay Alexeyevich Zabolotsky  (1903-1958)

A Russian poet, children's writer and translator, Zabolotsky was a Modernist and a founder of the Russian avant-garde group OBERIU.   In 1928, Zabolotsky founded the avant-garde group OBERIU with Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky.   The group's acronym stood for "The Association of Real Art.”  During this period, Zabolotsky first began to be published.  His first book of poetry, Columns was a series of grotesque vignettes on the life that Lenin's NEP (New Economic Policy) had created.  It included the poem "The Signs of the Zodiac Fade,” an absurdist lullaby that, 76 years later, in 2005, provided the words for a Russian pop hit.   In 1937 Zabolotsky published his second book of poetry.  This collection showed the subject matter of Zabolotsky's work moving from social concerns to elegies and nature poetry.  This book is notable for its inclusion of pantheistic themes.   Amidst Stalin's increased censorship of the arts, Zabolotsky fell victim to the Soviet government's purges.  In 1938, he was sent to Siberia.  A period of creative silence followed until his rehabilitation eight years later, in 1946. 


Mikhail Zenkevich



Notes on the Artists


Andrey Chezhin (1960–)   

Chezhin, whose works are in the collections of the Hermitage, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Brooklyn Museum, is a Russian photographer whose work includes photobooth photos with the subjects' faces replaced by hardware such as handles and safety pins.  According to an informational website, his credo is the "unpredictableness of the photographic process; [the] conceptuality of the photographic process; [and the] self-sufficiency of the photographic means of expression."  Chezhin is the organizer of the annual “Autumn Photo Marathon" and the director of the “PHOTOimage" gallery.  He works as free-lance photographer.


Boris Konstriktor (Boris Axelrod, 1950–)


Igor Lebedev (1966–)

Lebedev has been engaged in photography since 1984.  In 1985 he graduated from a technical college with high honours as a photographer.  From 1985-87 he served in the Soviet forces as a divisional photographer.  Since 1992 he has been working as a teacher in a children’s photographic studio.  In 1994 he organized the F. K. photographic studio at the Children’s House of Creative Work in the Petrograd Region.  Since 1995 he has been a member of the organizing committee for the Фoтoimage Gallery.  He has been a member of the Russian Union of Photographic Artists since 1996.  From 2000 to date he has been a member of the organizing committee for the Autumn Photo-marathon Festival, and curator of numerous photographic exhibitions.  Since 2002 he has led classes in photography at St. Petersburg State University, the Language Faculty, and the Smolny Institute of Free Arts and Sciences.  He has been actively involved in exhibitions since 1995.  He has created 11 personal exhibitions, and taken part in more than 80 group exhibitions in Russia, Germany, Finland, Great Britain, and the USA.


Dmitry Pilikin

Dmitry is the art pages editor for the magazine “On the Depths,” which is the only magazine that is not supported by politicians or by a company, and therefore it is free to discuss cultural issues - a task that demands a lot of energy but generates no money.   He is also the curator of Gallery 21, one of the very few exhibition spaces in St Petersburg worth the name.  Gallery 21 is situated on Pushkinskaya Street, in a big house which used to be a big squat.  Now the house hosts The Centre of Contemporary Art, called the "Twenty-first Century Ark".  Here there are about one hundred permanent studios for artists, musicians, actors and writers.


Pyotr Shvetsov (1970–)

Shvetsov was born in 1970 in Leningrad.   He graduated from the Secondary School of Fine Arts at The Academy of Fine Arts.  Has been taking part in exhibitions since 1991, and has been a member of The Artists' Union since 1992.   For several years Shvetsov has lived and worked abroad (artistic residencies – Sherborne School, England, 1994; Printing Shop in Odense, Denmark, 1995 – 1996; The Jyväskylä Centre for Printmaking, Jyväskylä Art Museum, Finland, 2004 – 2005).  He has held more than 10 personal exhibitions in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Lorgues (France).  The artist's works are in The State Russian Museum, The National Library of Russia, The British Library (London), The State Library of Berlin, The New York Public Library, The Institute of Modern Russian Culture (Los Angeles, California), in other state collections, and in private collections.  Pyotr Shvetsov lives and works in St Petersburg. 


Yulia Zaretskaya (1965–)

Born in Leningrad, Zaretskaya went to the Johanson Secondary Art School.  In 1989 she graduated from the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, graphics department, studio of V.A.  Vetrogonsky.  She is a member of the Union of Artists (since 1990) and a laureate at the Fifth International Biennale of Easel and Print Graphics.  She lives and works in St Petersburg.  Since 1989 she has taken part in exhibitions in Russia and outside.  A graphic painter, Julia Zaretskaja develops the traditions of the Leningrad School of Lithography, the Petersburg style of graphic form.  She favors the technique of black-and-white lithography.