Dmitry Plavinsky

28 April 1937, Moscow—1 September 2012, Moscow

Dmitri Plavinsky is one of the founders and leaders of Moscow nonconformism in the 1960s. The year he was born, his mother was arrested and sent to the camps in Kolyma, and Dmitri almost died. He did not meet her until he was eleven. During 1941-1944 he lived as an evacuee in Omsk, returning to Moscow in 1945. He studied in the theater department of the Memory of 1905 Art School with the former chief artist of the Meyerhold Theater, Victor Shestakov, from 1951 to 1956.

Together with the famous bohemian artist Anatoly Zverev he took part in the International Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow in 1957. His first solo show was in 1961 in the apartment of the art historian Ilya Tsirlin, and it was seen by the Greek collector George Costakis, who bought one of the works. Plavinsky’s first work shown abroad was in a 1964 exhibit at the Grosvenor Gallery in London. He was a participant in the ICA Unofficial Art from the Soviet Union in 1977 in London. He traveled extensively around the USSR for archaeology digs.  He lived in the USA between 1991 and 2004.  Plavinsky’s works are in the Tretyakov Gallery, the Pushkin Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, and MoMA.

After a period (1958-1962) of interest in the informel style (Jean Dubuffet), by 1963 Plavinsky created his own recognizable style, which he called “structural symbolism.” His works reflect his travels, ethnography studies, interest in ancient civilizations and old Russian culture, as well as his knowledge of music and mathematics. The basis of his method is the creation of a multilayered painterly relief, which incorporates objects and signs from various civilizations. He often pasted pages of ancient manuscripts, sheet music, branches, fossils, and old rags, creating a layered cake of a “cultural stratum,” a painting of the unity of nature and civilization. Plavinsky did a lot of printing and was a master of the technique. His engravings are virtuosic, employing a complex game of spatial planes and symbols. They are all devoted to the theme of death, vanished civilizations, and the mutual interaction of the laws of nature and the laws of the culture.