A  D I S S I D E N T


 
Vlady is a man in revolt. "What is a man in revolt?" Albert Camus asked. "A man who says no." For Vlady, it's the opposite. Revolt is a heritage that waves and snaps in the wind like a banner.

Vlady's grandfather, Leon Kibalchich, was an officer in the Imperial Guard who went down in history as having participated in the plot to assassinate Czar Alexander II. He fled to Geneva, then to Brussels, where he had two sons, Victor and Raoul. The latter died of hunger at the age of eight and a half. Kibalchich went to Argentina and never returned to Russia.

 
Victor Lvovich Kibalchich, still a teenager, went to Paris. He joined the Bonnot gang, did prison time, met Lenin in Petrograd, and helped to create the Komintern. Deported by Stalin to Orenburg, confined to Kazakhstan and Siberia, he embarked on a career as a novelist, essayist, and poet under the name Victor Serge.

Thus, Vlady's revolutionary nature was acquired through the aristocratic tradition of blood inheritance. But which revolution matters little: that of the Russian anarchists or the French libertarians -- anything that contrasts with the dull weight of Stalinist totalitarianism. In the Spanish Civil War, he wanted to fight in the ranks of the POUM. However, the front was closed to Victor Serge's son. What was open to him was art.


1920
Born in Petrograd during the civil war. His father, Victor Serge, wrote, "I spent nights at the defence outposts, with the communists. My pregnant wife came to sleep in back, in an ambulance. Wrapped in a towel were a few clothes and our most precious objects, so that we could meet during the battle and beat a retreat together along the Neva" (Mémoire d'un révolutionnaire, Seuil, 1951, p. 103; translation).
1933
Under severe pressure from persecution, Vlady's mother, Liuba, goes mad. She is admitted to the Red Army's psychiatric clinic. Vlady accompanies his father to the Gulag. His teachers are old Bolsheviks who were Lenin's companions and deported by Stalin.
1936
Vlady and his parents leave Russia for Belgium, then France. A supporter of the anarcho-syndicalist cause during the Spanish Civil War, he is not able to reach the front because of communist hostilities. He decides to become a painter and spends time in the studios of Joseph Lacasse, Victor Brauner, Oscar Dominguez, Wifredo Lam, André Masson, and sculptor Aristide Maillol.
1941
When the Nazis overrun France, Victor Serge and Vlady must flee again. In Marseilles, they board a ship that takes them on to Martinique, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. They are turned away from each port because they are communists. Only Mexico welcomes them. Vlady's mother remains in a psychiatric asylum in Aix-en-Provence, where she dies a few years later.
1947
Victor Serge dies. Vlady marries Isabel Díaz Fabela. Since his arrival in Mexico, he has been going from village to village, drawing scenes of daily life. He adapts himself to the landscape, the soil, and the light of the country that is to be his new homeland.



Isabel is "Vlady's homeland", to quote the phrase coined by critic Berta Teracena. She gave the Franco-Russian refugee a country and a language. She has become the primary inspiration for his art, giving a face and a body to the Eternal Feminine underlying his quest for the absolute.

1949

Becomes a Mexican citizen. Has solo exhibitions and takes part in many group exhibitions. His influences include Panait Istrati, Boris Pilniak, Maximilian Voloshin, André Breton, and, of course, Victor Serge.
1950
Takes a study trip to Holland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Yugoslavia, and France. Produces a series of colour lithographs.
1951-61
Selected to exhibit his work in Paris biennales I and II, the Sao Paulo biennale, the Tokyo biennale IV, and the Cordoba, Argentina, biennale. Invited to contribute to Confrontación in Mexico City. Produces murals using different techniques, does set design, illustrates many books.
1964-65
Another study trip to Europe.
1966
The French embassy in Mexico City awards him the Special Art Bursary. He moves to Paris and works in lithography.
1967
Has a work in the exhibition "Homage to Boccacio," in Certaldo, Italy. Is awarded medal of honour.
1968
Receives a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and spends one year in New York. Has work in Hemisferia 68 and at the Osaka World Fair. Admitted to the Salon des Indépendants, but leaves it shortly before it dissolves in 1970.
1971
Mexico's Visual Arts awards him the prize of the annual print salon. The president of the Republic of Mexico, Luis Echeverría, asks him to paint a mural.
1973
The plan for the mural takes shape: it will be devoted to the great revolutions of the contemporary era. Vlady makes many plans and sketches for a series of murals inside the Department of Finance's Miguel Lerdo de Tejada Library.
1974
Begins painting murals in the chapel of the Miguel Lerdo de Tejada Library. Devoted to the Freudian revolution, the chapel will be named the Freudian Chapel. The National Institute of Fine Arts asks him to create a monumental work for the room devoted to contemporary painting: "Xerxes."
1982
Finishes murals for the Miguel Lerdo de Tejada Library: a total of 2,000 m2 of paintings. This revolutionary Sistine Chapel, in which an androgynous Christ is juxtaposed with Cromwell and the plumed snake, is unveiled by Mexican president Lopez Portillo.

Vlady's mural has attracted visitors from all over the world. Among those who have seized the opportunity to take this journey through the revolutionary universe as seen by Vlady are such personalities as Edgar Morin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jean-Pierre Chevênement, Michel Lequenne, Allen Ginsberg and Andrei Voznesensky.

 

In 1981 at the height of the Cold War, the American poet Allen Ginsberg and the Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky were united by a common admiration for Vlady's fresco. At the end of the visit, Voznesensky lamented: "When I think that back in the USSR I will never be able to write a word about what I saw here!"

1986
Vlady's major "methodological" exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum. His most important works are exhibited and a high level of critical scrutiny.
1987
The Sandinista government invites Vlady to paint murals for the National Palace of the Revolution in Managua, Nicaragua. He works with Canadian painter Arnold Belkin.
1989
Major retrospective exhibition at Jardín Borda in Cuernavaca, under the aegis of the State of Morelos Institute of Culture.
1994
Produces four monumental paintings for the Ministry of the Interior ("Violencias fraternas," "El general," "El uno no camina sin el otro," "Caida y descendimiento"). Soon after, the paintings are sequestered in the old Lecumberri prison, because the government authorities interprets them as a tribute to the Zapatista rebellion.
1995
Meets with the bishop of Chiapas, Samuel Ruiz, nicknamed Tatic by the Natives. Begins work devoted to Tatic.
1998
The French Government awards his the highet art decoration (Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des lettres).
2003
An exhibition of paintings in the José Luís Cuevas Museum, Mexico City. An exhibition of engravings in the Orenburg Museum (Russia).
2004
Donation in May of most of his work (4 600 paintings, drawings and engravings) to the people of Mexico through the Fine Arts National Institute (Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes - INBA).
2005
An exhibition in the Moscow Fine Arts Museum.
The INBA awards him the Fine Arts Palace Commemoration medal.
Two weeks later, on July 21, he died from a brain cancer in his Cuernavaca home.