Yevgeny Rukhin

2 July 1943, Saratov—24 May 1976, Leningrad

Rukhin was born to a family of geologists living in evacuation during the war. He took up painting while studying geology at Leningrad State University, in 1963. Rukhin traveled to Moscow, where he was influenced by the circle of nonconformist artists, particularly Vladimir Nemukhin and Oskar Rabin.

Rukhin was fluent in two other languages, which was important to him for he was socially active and thus was able to communicate with foreigners. In 1965 he found the mailing address of James Rosenquist on a reproduction of one of his paintings, and Rukhin wrote him a letter. Rosenquist replied and even dedicated a work to the beginning artist in the USSR. In 1970, Rukhin took part in the “open air” exhibition in the courtyard of the Moscow house belonging to the journalist and Sovietologist Edmund Stevens. The American collector Norton Dodge played a special role in his creative life, acquiring many of his works. In 1967, the Betty Parsons Gallery gave him a show in New York.  Like Oskar Rabin, Rukhin fought the authorities to get permission for shows of nonconformist art. In 1974 he was arrested for being one of the initiators of the Bulldozer Exhibition; despite that, he immediately went back to organizing unofficial shows in houses of culture in Leningrad (1974-1975). He performed an unusual action to draw the attention of Western media to the plight of artists in the USSR: he floated twenty canvases down the Neva River. This took place not long before his tragic death in a fire in his studio.

Although he lived in Leningrad, in his manner Rukhin belongs to the Moscow school. He developed his style in constant communication with Vladimir Nemukhin.  From him he learned the abstract-expressionist method, and then the methods of assemblages placed on the painting surface and understood to be a table or wall, and also painterly imitations. The watershed year for him as an artist was 1968, when he began incorporating objects of daily life into his assemblage paintings, preferring to use crude mundane materials, which brought him closer to American Pop Art. In the last six months of his life, Rukhin used the “conveyor system” he invented, simultaneously working on several paintings, rushing to complete as many as possible, as if he had a foreboding of his early demise.