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Art Gallery: Alla Pologova

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Adelaida (Alla) Pologova

About My Mother

by Alexey Pismenny
July 16, 2006

Alla Pologova is a pre-eminent Russian sculptor of the later 20th and 21st centuries. She is also my mother. She was born in 1923 in Yekaterinburg, studied art in St. Petersburg under Ingal and Stempkovsky, and has lived in Moscow since her graduation. Her artistic career took a dramatic turn in 1962 when Khruschev visited an art exhibition and was enraged by her "Maternity", which he considered decadent. Alla was blacklisted as an artist till Kruschev's ouster in 1964, after which she gradually began exhibiting and selling her art, and does so to this day.

Alla Pologova restored the tradition of painted sculpture, first with her aluminum "Acrobats", which is now lost, and then with "Boy of Whom the Birds Are Not Afraid", "Forrester Savchenko With Family and a Wild Duckling", and virtually every wood sculpture of hers since then. She also employed gold leaf to a great dramatic effect, for example, in her "Boys". Alla pioneered large shamot ceramic sculpture, both relief and free-standing. She was among the first sculptors of the period to move away from the stale technology that started with a clay model and proceeded to the end result trough mechanical casting and copying. Virtually every work of hers since 1970 was done in the final material - bronze, stone, wood or ceramic by hand.

Several prominent Russian artists consider Alla their teacher, among hem Leonid Baranov, Alexander Lyagin, and the late Alex Grigoriev.

What is the context in which Alla Pologova created her art? Starting with the sixties, she was among those artists who shaped the gradual liberation of Russian art from the clutches of Socialist Realism. Her influences at the time were some, -- not all - impressionists (Maillol, but not Rodin), Matveev, the early classical Greeks, Henry Moore. She never did propaganda art and her earlier work, while always realistic, intentionally avoided not merely official, but any kind of programmatism: the people (often with animals) were portrayed silently and statically existing in their space, rather than telling a story, much in the tradition of British abstract sculpture. This subtly changed starting with the 80's when the compositions became more complex and her work more and more tended to speak, perhaps even argue, certain truths. So, while the "Boys" merely exist, the girl attempting to ride a goat is an actor in a profound drama of the natural order, a drama in which the author herself passionately takes the side of the goat through the inscription on the plinth. Many of her late works include lengthy inscriptions and depict vigorous movement. At the same time, she avoided the sarcasm of the so-called dissident art, which built its language by appropriating Socialist Realism. In this, it seems, Pologova resolved the paradox: how can art tell a story while avoiding dull didacticism of program art and staying true to the beauty of form?

Alla Pologova lives and works in the famed Vladykino compound of sculpture studios, surrounded by fellow artists of all ages and a band of cats.

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