Alexander Arefiev (Arekh)

Born: 1931, Leningrad
Died: 1978, Paris

Painter, graphic artist, sculptor. Born in Leningrad in the family of a worker called Dmitry Arefiev (1931). Lived through the Siege of Leningrad (1941–44). Studied at the Leningrad Secondary School of Art (1944–49), where he headed the Order of Indigent Painters. Expelled for Formalism (1949). Studied at the Academy of Arts secondary school of art (1944–49; expelled for Formalism in the ninth grade). Enrolled at Medical Institute (1950), studied for three years, before being expelled. Spent three years in prison camp. Studied anatomy at the Leningrad Institute of Medicine (1951–53). Made the acquaintance of his future teacher and mentor Georgy Traugot at school of art. Leader of the Arefiev circle, the first group of nonconformist artists in Leningrad, including Vladimir Shagin, Richard Vasmi and Sholom Schwartz (late 1950s–early 1960s). Legend of unofficial art life in Leningrad. Aspired to convey the reality of the post-war period and social history, depicting such scenes from contemporary life as communal apartments and street fights (from the late 1940s). The drama and profound feeling of his works have much in common with German Expressionism. Member of the Order of Unselling Painters (1950), Fellowship of Experimental Fine Art (1975–77) and Aleph (1975–76). Expelled from the Soviet Union (1977). Died in Paris (1978). Contributed to unofficial (from 1958) and official (from 1965) exhibitions, including the exhibitions of unofficial art at the Ivan Gaza Palace of Culture in Leningrad (1974–75; boycotted the similar show at the Nevsky Palace of Culture in solidarity with artists excluded from the exhibition).

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