Lessons in Geometry is the first-ever UK exhibition of St Petersburg-born artist Leonid Borisov, featuring a range of media including painting, sculpture, collage and photography, spans five decades of artistic production from the Soviet to post-Soviet eras.
Renowned for geometric abstraction, Borisov's initial encounter with the genre was in 1957 when he visited an American abstract art exhibition in Moscow. Although a trained engineer, it was not until meeting underground self-taught artists Alexander Leonov and Dmitry Plavinsky in the early '70s that Borisov decided to become an artist.
Articulating the geometric aspects of the historical Russian avant-garde was key in establishing himself within Soviet Nonconformist Art (1953 -1986), which would lead to his participation in the first exhibition of unofficial art in St Petersburg in 1975. Working outside the rubric of Socialist Realism, the nonconformists rejected Stalin’s policy unifying aesthetic and ideological objectives.
Despite participating in all significant St Petersburg exhibitions since the 1970s, Borisov’s passion for geometry made him even more of an “outsider” in his hometown. This put him in line with Moscow instead of the St Petersburg school. He looked towards Moscow Conceptualism (early 1970s – 1980s) rather than Soviet Nonconformist Art's initial preoccupation with quasi-modernist painting techniques.
Like many of his contemporaries applying conceptual art and appropriation to subvert socialist ideology, Borisov’s style is also directly linked to Kazimir Malevich (1879 - 1935), the founder of the nihilistic Suprematist movement. Whereas Malevich's Black Square (1915) - a black square on a white background - is a Suprematist icon, Borisov’s appropriations create distinct geometric icons that are at once playful and revolutionary.
The exhibition will take place from 19 September at Gallery Elena Shchukina in Mayfair, London. Curated by Anya Stonelake.