Newcity Art
Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Dimitri Pavlotsky/Studio Oh!

MAKING MUSIC 2013 42 x 68in  Oil on canvas

MAKING MUSIC 2013 42 x 68in Oil on canvas


The dissolution of the Soviet Union was mostly a disaster for its state-funded visual artists, who were thoroughly trained to celebrate a social and aesthetic order whose appeal did not outlive its demise. Fortunately, many of them have landed in the Chicago area, where their skills in heroic, naturalistic narrative were banished from American art for so long that they can now appear fresh.
Dimitri Pavlotsky, born in Moscow and trained at the city's Institute of Architecture, has all of those skills, as well as an exceptional talent, reflecting the fact that prospective art academy students in the Soviet Union were rigorously screened. In drawing, he always works the entire page, which make his lines as breathtaking as they are impetuous. In painting, he works the entire canvas as he builds up thick impastos of partially mixed globs of paint. He knows his way around a natural form, so his figures never appear like the cut-and-paste pictographs of the Chicago Imagists. No matter how distorted, they always come alive in space.
He declares that he is striving to undo his classical training, but just as it was with the academically trained early Modernists, it has been burned into his imagination. His intense, loose imagery often recalls Soutine and Ensor, and his work is at the same high level. But what is he going to paint? What story is he going to tell? His cultural identity is no longer Soviet, but it's not yet American, and Modernism is now ancient history. His self-portraits show him wide-eyed and stunned. His paintings suck the air out of the room with extreme intensity, desperately struggling against a painful world collapsing around them. His ghost-like portraits of historic Russian aristocrats are puzzling, but he does a convincing job with powerful and dangerous animals. He also makes memorable portraits of musicians, apparently performing the aestheticized chaos of early modern composers. As with such music, when beauty erupts from his paintings, it's always an anomaly. Although he depicts an angry world, his point-of-view feels passive and distant. (Chris Miller)

Through August 29 at Studio Oh!, 1837 South Halsted.
August 15, 2015
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YOUNG GARDENER 2010 30x40in  Oil on canvas

YOUNG GARDENER 2010 30x40in Oil on canvas

Midwest Jewish Artists Lab: Artist Profile

An Interview with Artist Dimitri Pavlotsky

This past summer, Spertus Institute announced the Chicago launch of the Midwest Jewish Artists Lab. Spertus believes arts and culture are critical components for a vibrant Jewish community. The Lab addresses the need to broaden the impact of the arts in Jewish life, helping foster community and inspire new work.
Assistant Editor Joanna Rothenberg interviewed participating artist Dimitri Pavlotsky, who hails from Moscow and now lives in Logan Square.
JR: How did you hear about the Midwest Artists Lab and what are you finding useful about the program?
DP: I heard about it through Facebook. My friend saw it and correctly thought it was right up my alley.
I have this need to be a part of a “tribe” — whether that be a tribe of artists, immigrants, or Jews. The Lab is exactly the niche I was looking for.

JR: Speaking of immigrants, we’ve focused our public programing over the last few months on the experience of Soviet Jews, and found for many that their Soviet background continued to inform their work and identity. Has that been true for you?
DP: Being Soviet is my character. I immigrated to the United States in 1989 when I was 26 years old. My interest in my background subsided after the Cold War, but through my work with the Artists Lab it has perked back up.
Soviets are wary of any establishment that claims to want to help shape our ideology. On the other hand, this institution [Spertus] wants to help. I was born and raised in Moscow. We didn’t practice anything — especially Judaism. I remember coming home from school once and saw a box of matzo on the table. In retrospect, I realize it was probably Passover but back then I had no idea. I just knew it wasn’t normally there.
By the time I arrived here, I was already shaped by the Soviets. My education there was great. I studied at the Moscow School of Architecture for six years. But I didn’t realize how deprived I was as a child by not practicing Judaism. Here it’s quite a different atmosphere. Everything is a personal choice. I decide; not some system already in place.

JR: Where have you exhibited?
DP: My first large show was at the Chabad in Bucktown. The first time I stepped foot in there, I felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t a religious man. I came back a year later and understood more fully because I recognized the importance of rituals to the the people involved there, something that is also important to me as an artist. So I was very pleased to exhibit there. I have also exhibited with the Chicago Artists Coalition and at Studio Oh!

JR: Can you explain what is happening in your work, Young Gardener (above)?
DP: It’s a painting based off a painting from the 19th century by Orest Kiprensky. In the original painting, the man was drawn with very smooth skin and looked quite relaxed. Kiprensky was going for illusion, but I wanted to represent reality — I thought the earlier work didn’t properly represent current life. Life is filled with anguish so I went with jerky moves and compulsive strokes.

JR: Why did you decide to include the performance element to your work?
DP: I discovered it by accident. I’ve always felt I’ve had more energy than the average person and I wanted to share it. At first I was hesitate to film myself, worrying it would be inhibiting but instead it was the opposite — I became more disciplined because every move was captured. The energy doesn’t just come from my hands but from my entire body.
I’m in the very beginning stages of this process but people are finding it interesting — it’s giving my whole body to my art.

New work by Dimitri Pavlotsky and the other artists participating in the Chicago cohort of the Midwest Jewish Artists Lab will go on display at Spertus Institute this fall in an exhibit based around the theme of Wisdom.
The Midwest Jewish Artists Lab is supported by a grant from the Covenant Foundation.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016




Dissonance - Art Exhibit

By Dimitri Pavlotsky

Opening reception with the artist: Friday July 10, 2014, 6-10 pm
On view: July 10 - August 29
Studio Oh! 1837 South Halsted, Chicago

Studio Oh! is proud to present "Dissonance", a retrospect of works by Dimitri Pavlotsky. 
In this exhibit we follow the path of Pavlotsky, a classically schooled Russian painter from his early years to the present. Trying his skilled hand at various styles of painting, he progressively moves from a realistic portrayal of his subject, to an expressionistic depiction of the raw emotions behind the individual.

Join us in retracing the steps of Dimitri Pavlotsky's career at gallery Studio Oh!, one of the newest galleries in Chicago's Art District.
Contact: Erwin Overes
773 474 1070

Studio Oh! 1837 South Halsted Chicago 773 474 1070
gallery hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday 1:00 - 6:00 and by appointmen