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  • Provenance

    Livet Reichard Company, Inc., New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Phyllis Kind Gallery, 1989

  • Literature

    M.Tupitsyn, Margins of Soviet Art, Milan, 1989, p. 84; E.Gorokhovsky, The Limits of the Rectangle: My Unlimited Space, St Petersburg, 2004, p.26

  • Catalogue Essay

    This piece is one of Gorokhovsky's most famous and significant works, and one that he has varied in other paintings (such as ‘Power of the People (Troika)', 1994, published in: Eduard Gorokhovski. Bilder 1992¬96. Schlossmuseum Ellwangen (Jagst). 1996). It is based on an anonymous Soviet photo from the 1930s, which Gorokhovsky reads as an image of a so-called ‘troika' in conference (though there is little to suggest that this is actually the case). This assumption allows Gorokhovsky to make a programmatic aesthetic, moral, and political statement: in a sense, this painting can be read as a manifest.
    The system of the ‘troika', was introduced to the USSR by special decree on December 1st 1934 as a measure for dealing with especially dangerous political crimes. A troika consisted of an informal body of three individuals, whose decisions had the same juridical force as that of a court of law. The decree establishing this practice was issued immediately after the assassination of the prominent Leningrad politician S.M. Kirov. Kirov was killed right in the corridor of the Smolny by a young communist, who, in turn, was executed soon afterwards. According to some historians, Stalin was behind this crime, and, even if he was not, he used it to set the mechanism of repression into motion. The troika¬decree established a procedure for ‘simplified investigations' for cases concerning matters of state, in the course of which death sentences could be handed out with no chance of appeal on the basis of sparse information. In other words, the ‘troikas' could send people to the firing squad immediately. The word itself is terrifying, and connotes the death of millions of people under Stalin's rule.
    Gorokhovsky does not hide his horror at the people in the picture; they have been placed onto a red background that shines through their bodies and faces, anticipating their own impending, tortuous deaths at the hands of a machine of repression they themselves helped to create (active members of the repressive apparatus were subject to more intensive purges than any other category of the population). The source of this red colour is the Stalin-portrait that Gorokhovsky has placed on the wall, which seems to emanate blood just as an icon emanates its sacral aura.
    Gorokhovsky gives his Stalin¬portrait a very simple frame, avoiding the baroque forms that usually gilded the ceremonial portraits of the era. One could say that this frame is more modernist, as is the portrait itself, ‘Stalin painted Liechtenstein¬style'. The geometrical division of the composition into two fields, red and grey, could also be associated with the art of modernism. Gorokhovsky's canvas addresses the immeasurable price the USSR paid in the course of modernization. In his view, a certain portion of guilt for this price can be ascribed to Soviet modernism, so that it becomes the duty of the post-modern artist of the 1970s-1980s to uncover the terrible truth as to art's collaboration with power. The figures in the painting are reading and writing, and are more reminiscent of leftist intellectuals than judges or executioners. But this is exactly why Gorokhovsky is putting them on trial.
    Dr Ekaterina Degot

3

Untitled (Stalin)

1987
Silkscreen and oil on canvas.
124 x 149 cm. (48 3/4 x 58 5/8 in).
Signed and dated ‘E.Gorokhovsky 87 [in Cyrillic]’ lower right.

Estimate
£30,000 - 40,000 

Sold for £29,300

Important Contemporary Russian Art–Property from a Foundation

28 Feb 2008, 6pm
London