Pinning down the importance of Serge Charchoune in the recent history of art is difficult. Born in Russia, he briefly studies painting in Moscow before being drafted. After deserting, he spends most of his life living in France, but he’s credited with being the first Russian Dada poet. He studies under Henri Le Fauconnier in Paris, where he meets Jean Metzinger and, during a stay in Barcelona, encounters the Cubists Albert Gleizes and Marie Laurencin.
From his work, we can glean that Charchoune was curious. He experimented with several aesthetic approaches, studying the link between art and music. He wasn’t strictly a Dadaist or a Cubist or a Purist—his body of work resists classification. The notes of a 2013 exhibition of his work at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art assert that Charchoune’s achievements are “among the least widely known or understood in twentieth-century European art.”
Nonetheless, the breadth of Charchoune’s impact is clear. His work hangs in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of Serbia. It also, for one more week, can be seen in New York City at Rosenberg & Co. in Serge Charchoune: The Early Years. The show is the first posthumous solo exhibition of the artist’s work in New York and features thirty-six paintings shown together for the first time.
On view are paintings ranging from Charchoune’s Ornamental Cubist compositions to his later Purist canvasses and beyond, with a focus on work he created between 1916 and 1930. According to Rosenberg & Co., the exhibition “highlights the artist’s stylistic experimentations as he navigated the various influences of the European avant-garde.” It does so chronologically, introducing the viewer to the evolution of his work as they move through the gallery.
It’s worth a visit for those who enjoy seeing how artists and their works change over time. Charchoune’s influence on the world of art may be difficult to pin down, given his predilection for experimentation, but Serge Charchoune: The Early Years lays bare the influence of the world on his art, even as he developed his own unique style.