A Portrait of the Artist: Alexey Zoob
"The point of art is not to make better, but to make yours," says Alexey Zoob, who is currently showing his paintings at Kentlands Mansion.
Alexey Zoob, a figure painter trained classically at the Stroganov Moscow State University of Arts and Industry and currently showing his work at Kentlands Mansion in Gaithersburg, has a lot to say about the lives of the artists that have influenced him.
As he muses about the virtues of the masters, Masaccio, Velasquez, Modigliani, Seurat, Michelangelo, Chagal, Picasso, El Greco, Zoob notes how art is inextricably linked to slogans and shock value these days.
"Success is commercial these days," he says. "Conceptualism is a trend. On a basic level, any painting is conceptual. You can't get away from that."
Despite his upbringing in Izhevsk, in the Ural region in Soviet Russia, the clout of history does not weigh him down.
"Artists accumulate and analyze experience. Whether painting representationally or abstractly, we do not create anything new. We just gather the histories of the places we've passed through and paint them in a new light."
Standing at his window, Zoob looks out at the lake behind his studio and admires its quiet beauty and the way the light reflects off the surface. In his studio, he has both finished and in-progress, large oil paintings on linen leaning against walls and on easels—a carousel of memory superimposed on the immediate surroundings. Fleeting figures set into backgrounds where they never stood and smiling knowingly, as if recognizing their own blink-of-an-eye happenstance, peer out of his canvases.
The theme of immigration is central to Zoob's conception of himself as an artist. He left Russia for Israel and ultimately settled in the US, first in New York City and then the Washington, DC-area. Throughout his travels, he never compromised his commitment to painting.
"Immigration creates a symbiosis in the soul of the artist. My generation should be grateful. We were disappointed in socialism and capitalism, so we had no dogma but freedom. We could do whatever we wanted," said Zoob. While in Israel, Zoob worked odd jobs and continued to paint. He mentioned how Chagal left Belarus for France and how Picasso got there from Spain. Immigration recontextualized their histories and gave them access to a different part of themselves.
When he was young his mother bought him a book of Mattisse's work. As a student, he had access to books on non-Soviet painters in the school library. Inspired by Quattrocento or Mid-Renaissance Italian painters, Zoob is not afraid of his influences. They are not more than an invocation in the spiritual renewal and rediscovery that the act of painting permits.
"The point of art is not to make better, but to make yours," says the artist.
Coming from a family of educators—his father was an athletics coach—Alexey Zoob splits his time between painting and teaching. His students at Creative Arts Studio in Gaithersburg, Metaphor After School Program in Falls Church and Olympus in Potomac are anywhere from two and a half to 17 years old.
"Pictures make themselves. The artist is just the medium. Sometimes I look at my students' work, and I think it competes with Matisse's," said Zoob.
His own work is in the collections of Ron Lauder of Estee Lauder, Edgard Bronfman of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Ralph Tornberg, LA movie producer, Henry A Sweetbaum, London, Vivien Clore Duffield (Sir Charles Clore Foundation), London, Len Blavatnik, American buisnessman and philantropist, and Issac Menashe, Jewish Community of Venice.
He has exhibited internationally, including Russia, Israel, Italy, Sweden, Japan and the US. In the US, he has shown his work at the Alexandre Gertsman Gallery, NYC, the Caelum Gallery, NYC, the IntArt Gallery, NYC, the Avant Garde Art Gallery, Washington, DC, The Goldman Art Gallery in the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville, and at Gallery 5 in Richmond, VA.
Recent solo shows include The Russian Community Center in Washington, DC, The Arts Barn in Gaithersburg, Glenview Mansion in Rockville, and the Smith Parado Gallery in Georgetown. Zoob will also be showing his work at Glenview Mansion in Rockville this summer.
His signature hand-painted Matryoshka dolls were on view at the 2007 Venice Biennale and are also in American entrepreneur, Jeffrey Sweetbaum's private collection.
To see his recent work visit Kentlands Mansion in Gaithersburg through January 23, 2011.