Yuri Zlotnikov

  • Born 1930 in Moscow, USSR

Yuri Zlotnikov was a pioneer of abstract art in the post-Stalinist Soviet Union. Paintings, he said, “should reveal the laws of psychophysiological motor behavior and the nature of reactions to color and form.” He studied at the Moscow Middle Art School for gifted children in the 1940s and in the sculpture studio of the Anna Golubkina muzey (Anna Golubkina Museum). In the 1950s, working with other artists at the studio of Vladimir Slepyan (1930–1998), Zlotnikov sought a visual language rooted in science and psychology. His first abstract work, Schetchik Geygera (Geiger Counter; 1956), was followed by his famous “Sistema signala” (Signal System) series (1957–62). Inspired by De Stijl painter Piet Mondrian (1872–1944) and Suprematist artist Kazimir Malevich (1878–1938), Zlotnikov studied mathematics, cybernetics, and human psychology. In compositions of small, colorful geometric elements on a white background he attempted to link human perception with the communicative potential of abstraction. After 1962 Zlotnikov returned to a figurative style, and in the late 1960s he created schematic compositions (“Metaforikoy” [Metaphorics]) inspired by music and mass movement. He later favored a more impulsive, naive style in his abstract improvisations. Zlotnikov’s first solo exhibition was held in 1962; the Moskovskiy muzey sovremennogo iskusstva (Moscow Museum of Modern Art) organized a major retrospective in 2011.

Artworks by Yuri Zlotnikov in the exhibition