In ‘Black Light’ we find a generic portrait of a Soviet youth overlaid with the shape that is short-hand for the Russian avant-garde of the 1910s. It has the feel of an archetypal mid-century passport photograph blown up large, the sitter’s features covered and identity denied at the same time as his pre-Soviet heritage is recalled. His direct gaze and lightly raised eyebrow conjure that aura of elegiac inwardness that characterizes Vassiliev’s greatest paintings.
A pre-emigration work, ‘Black Light’ is painted on a thick canvas and bears a Soviet export stamp on the reverse. The multiple white lines that comprise the framing technique is a feature of other portraits by Vassiliev, for example ‘Twilight'.
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