Archipenko, Alexander

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Alexander Archipenko

Kiev, 1887

New York, 1964


Alexander Archipenko studied painting and sculpture at the Kiev School of Art.Early on, he was influenced by Byzanntine art, the writings of Andreyev and, later, the 1905 Russin Revolution. In 1906, the artist went to Moscow to continue his training.In 1908, he moved to Paris, where he soon became part of the La Ruche art colony. During this time, he began to show his work as part of the Cubist group of artists. In 1912, he opened his own art school in Paris and one of the members of the Section d’Or, who regularly exhibited their work together until 1914 and for a brief period after the First World War.

Archipenko’s work reveals his interest in experimenting with techniques, materials and forms. In 1912, he created the sculpture Medrano I (The Juggler), in which he combined different painted materials (wood, glass, metal thread). That year, he also made Woman Walking, where the empty spaces are as important as dense areas in creating the illusion of volume. During this period, he began to work on his “sculpture-painting”. These are sculpted and painted plaster reliefs to which he applied the principles of collage, while joining diagonal planes and curving them to achieve light and shadow effects. For this, collage technique was the most adequate for making sketches, since it facilitated the appearance of abstract elements regardless of the subject.

Archipenko spent World War I working on his sculptures in a chalet in Cimiez, close to Nice. Between 1919 and 1921, his works were shown in several European cities, including at the 1920 Venice Bienale. In 1921, he married sculptor Angelica Bruno-Schmitz and settled in Berlin, where he opened an art school. That year, the MoMA Société Anonyme (New York) hosted his first solo exhibition in the United States.Two years later, the artist moved to New York, where he also founded an art school. In 1924, he started a summer art school in Woodstock and invented a variable image system that he called “Archipentura” and which he dedicated to Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. In 1928, he became an American citizen.His teaching work intensified in the thirties, when he began collaborating with different North American universities.In the meantime, almost all of his works in German museum collections were being confiscated by the Nazis as being representative of “modern and decadent” art. Between 1963 and 1964, the first major retrospective of his work, by that time recognized internationally, could be seen.

Noemi de Haro