Neizvestny, symbol of resistance and artistic freedom,
sculptor of "Golden Child"
Ernst Ne-izvest-ny was born in Sverdlovsk, Russia in
1925 (Today Ye·ka·te·rin·burg,
a west central Russian city in the eastern foothills
of the Ural Mountains).
As a 19-year-old
he was a lieutenant in the Russian army in Austria
during World War II. He was injured, assumed dead
and thrown into the mortuary, where the shock of hitting
the ground revived him. His survival escaped the notice
of the authorities who 'posthumously' awarded him
the Order of the Red Star.
was an artist when the only politically accepted art
was socialist realism: happy peasants, broad-chested
workers, reverence to grandfather Lenin, and the triumph
of the collective over the individual.
was always a symbol of resistance and artistic freedom.
Neizvestny argument with Nikita Khrushchev, the President
of the USSR, over the issue of artistic freedom at
the exhibition of the thirtieth anniversary of the
Moscow Union of Artists in 1962 has become an historic
this exhibition, Khrushchev told him that his work
was "dog shit."
retorted that Khrushchev might be Soviet Premier,
but he knew nothing about art.
head, Shelepin, who was part of Khrushchev's entourage,
told Neizvestny that he had no right to talk to Khrushchev
like that and that he would get a chance to talk in
a uranium mine.
didn't stop talking. An hour later, Khrushchev finally
stopped him by saying: "There are two forces
inside you, an angel and a devil. If the angel wins
we will help you. If the devil wins, we will destroy
was spared, but his Moscow studio and 250 pieces of
his art were destroyed.
came under considerable pressure to write to Khrushchev
and recant his views. Eventually, he sent a letter,
but without the required contrition. As a result he
was expelled from the Artists' Union and thus deprived
of the legal right to work as an artist in the Soviet
after Khrushchev's death in 1971, Neizvestny granted
Khrushchev's wishes and created a monument for his
tomb in Moscow. The interlocking black and white blocks
of this monument symbolize Khrushchev's light and
to the Dominicans in Poland in 1973, during which
he became fascinated with religious art, led to a
ban on foreign travel. Neizvestny's sculpture for
the facade of the Communist headquarters in Ashkhabad
caused a scandal when it was unveiled because it was
composed around the shape of a cross.
attempts to get an exit visa, he was allowed to leave
the USSR for the west in 1976. In 1977 he moved to
New York City, where he continues to work and live.
sculptures are also found in Artek, Ashghabad, Egypt,
Magadan, Moscow, Sverdlovsk, Sweden, Washington, and
official web page is at www.enstudio.com