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Birthday boys: Pavel Filonov & Elvis Presley

JANUARY 8, 2007
"The Banquet of Kings" oil on canvas, 1913, The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
We all know that it's Elvis's birthday today. But are you familiar with Pavel Filonov?

Pavel Filonov was a Russian artist who died in 1941 in Leningrad (St. Petersburg). His work is in the Constructivist grain but it is so rich in ideas and personal/political imagery. Here's my take on this great and under-appreciated 20th century master:
"Pavel Filonov… where to begin? I discovered him when I went to St. Petersburg in April 1993 to organize an animation studio for a computer game company. Filonov: banned artist, probably crazy and impossible to work under. Painting big canvases with the smallest of brushes. He had one foot in the brilliant, bright Futuristic cosmos and the other in the vodka-swilling, horsecart-pulling, turnip-tending , "Thanks for your dacha comrade, here's your one-way ticket to the gulag" Russia of the early 20th century. There's an academic strain but a searing vision too. I love Filonov!"
a Russian site: very slow and very complete.
The State Russian Museum
"A Geometrical Construction", watercolor on paper, 1920, The Russian Museum (It's like Saul Steinberg and Fernand Leger got drunk on cheap Vodka and started drawing)
"The February Revolution" mixed media on paper, 1924-26, The Russian Museum
The best selling Elvis stamp. Painnting by Mark Stutzman more info
Elvis: Much ink has been spilled on The King. Here's my little commentary that reflects on the position of any creative voice in the crushing world of high stakes commerce:
"I'm not a big Elvis fan; maybe in another life I will be. I have included him in here because for me he represents the small but indispensable cog in a great commercial enterprise. Look at the industries his cult has spawned! All because of one talented --and possibly tortured individual's (the victim we seem to require in our tabloid culture!) need to express something about the beauty of life in a popular vernacular language: music, poetry, his public persona and myth: The Gift of the King!
Topical: artist birthdays