Sacred Inspiration Icons

by Alek Rapoport

On display from September 9 - October 31, 1997. All works displayed are copyrighted by the artist. The Marian Library Gallery is located on the seventh floor of the Roesch Library on the University of Dayton campus. Gallery hours are 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday. Tel.: 937-229-4214.

The Artist
An artist of international repute, Alek Rapoport (1933-1997) was born in Russia and compared his life to "the swing of a pendulum." A dissident artist all his life, in both his sacred and secular works he concentrated on the inner life and spiritual subjects. His color reliefs, paintings, and engravings are held by museums and collections in many countries, including the Leningrad State Russian Museum and the Vatican Museum.

Having trained in Leningrad under the avant-garde Nicholas P. Akimov, Rapoport's style was rooted in the ideas of Russian esoteric Constructivism, itself descended from Byzantine-Russian icons. In his early work (1950s), he strove to break with the academicism of Soviet artists by turning to western European tradition; for this he was labeled "formalistic distorter." As a teacher in the 1960s, seeking to share the heritage of Russian Constructivism, the Bauhaus and Le Corbusier's Modulor with his students, he was accused of "ideological sabotage."

Then, in the 1970s, as he looked more and more to the Byzantine-Russian icon and the Old and New Testaments for his themes, he drew even stronger criticisms: "religious," "fascist," "Zionist." Although a leader of anti-institutional groups and well received in the underground art community, he could only exhibit clandestinely because of the opposition of Soviet authorities. Finally, in 1976, he was forced to leave behind his homeland and most of his life's work. He emigrated to the USA, where he continued his passionate personal quest, in a new and often differently unreceptive culture.

His Art
His intense expressionistic paintings speak powerfully of conscience, alienation in a materialistic world, and dialogue between the human soul and the creative spirit. The works on display in this exhibit are from the 1980s and 1990s; they show his reformulation of the icon style. They testify to his conviction: "The last swing of the pendulum has brought me to the U.S. where, in search for values lost in the fortuitous, the farfetched and the materialistic, I turn again to the cradle of mankind--the Mediterranean area--where at the very outset of ages, the pictorial image was born. This is an art in which the Divine Spirit serves as inspiration, and in which the figure of Man is both the central theme and the measure of all things." As John Bowlt (University of Texas art critic) once wrote: "For Alek Rapoport, art is more than the esthetic coordination of particular forms. It is a medium of contemplation, of deep emotional expression. In a world ever more mechanical, ever more anonymous, Rapoport's paintings and drawings are gestures of defiance that should command our attention and respect."


< Annunciation

24x16.5, tempera on canvas, 1982

Haight Street People Around the Image of Jesus >
25x52, tempera and oil on canvas, 1984

[Haight Street
People around the Image of Jesus]
[The Lord (Psalms 119:89)]
< The Lord (Psalms 119:89)
52x52, tempera and oil on canvas, 1982

St. Nicholas >
25x24, mixed media on canvas, 1989

[St. Nicholas]
[Dormition of the Virgin with Two Apostles]
< Dormition of the Virgin with Two Apsotles
41x71, mixed media on masonite, 1993

The Incredulity of Thomas>
60x54, mixed media on jute, 1993

[The Incredulity of Thomas]
[Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)]
< Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)
132x96, mixed media on plywood, 1995

St. Mary, Jesus, and St. John (John 19:25-27) >
26.5x45.5, tempera on masonite, 1987

[St. Mary, Jesus and St. John (John 19:25-27]
[The Image]
< The Image
18x63, mixed media on canvas, 1991

Trinity in Dark Tones >
42x55, tempera on canvas, 1994

[Trinity in Dark Tones]
For more information, please contact:

University of Dayton
Dayton, Ohio
Telephone: 937 - 229 - 4214

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