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Russian Avant-Garde Art in New York

Svirel’ sobveia: proza, stikhi, kartiny: 1-i kooperativnyi sbornik [The subway’s flute: prose, poems, images: 1-st joint anthology] (all published).

New York: self-published by Mariia Burliuk (printed by Bazar Press), 1924. Small quarto (26.5 × 17.5 cm). Original staple-stitched printed wrappers; 32 pp. Four leaves of plates on coated stock; numerous additional portraits and illustrations reproduced throughout. Publisher’s rubber stamp with address supplied in ink. Two small repairs to corners of front wrapper; else about very good.

One of the rarest works edited by David Burliuk, and a particularly interesting anthology of leftist Russian émigré writers and artists active in New York in the early 1920s. Although the publication was intended to be a periodical, no further issues appeared. The front wrapper reproduces a lithograph (“Vzlet N’iu-Iorka” – “New York taking off”) by L. Lozovik (Louis Lozowick, 1892–1973), the Russian-born Art Deco and Precisionist artist who combined an interest in Western trends with a keen awareness of developments in Russian avant-garde art. Other artists whose work – mostly various takes on the New York cityscape – is reproduced within, aside from Burliuk’s, are N. S. Tsitskovskii (“V sobvee” – “In the subway”), Abram A. Manevich (“Bronks” – “The Bronx”), and Robert Winthrop Chanler (1872–1930), who seems to have been of great interest to Burliuk. With contributions by Burliuk, A. Sanderov, Sergei Zastrabskii, I. Rozenfel’d, Anna Mark, N. Feshin, David Iuzhanin, R. Magidov, N. Shtengel’, P. Kazimirov (Volgin), Boris Fel’dman, Tema Sven, S. I. Zmitrochenok, Grisha Burshtok, and others. With many short autobiographical texts and portraits which make the book a valuable resource on this ephemeral group, many of which assimilated into American society throughout the 1920s and are today all but unknown. The bulk of the work is best described as proletarian and communist-oriented, with a number of highly interesting works written to commemorate Lenin’s death from afar. Several are marked by a futurist aesthetic and they include such genres as the “Elektrostikh” (“Electro-verse”), but there are also more conventional lyric poems that chronicle the historical events witnessed or the ennui of exile. Also printed is the shortest of poems by Velimir Khlebnikov on p. 12.

Burliuk was a Russian-American poet and visual artist, who had been a leading figure of the Russian avant-garde in the decade preceding the October Revolution. In 1922, he settled in the United States, where he published widely and promoted his experience with Soviet politics and art. He continued to use such genres as “poezoconcerts” and “poezoballs” pioneered in Russia. In the 1920s and 1930s he published numerous books in his wife’s publishing house, as well as several anthologies such as the present, all of which were socialist and proletarian in orientation, while defending the principles of creative liberty. He also continued to draw and paint, and showed his work in dozens of personal exhibitions. He became a US citizen in 1930 and was increasingly intent on demonstrating his own influence on American art. His work was purchased by leading museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney, and the Brooklyn Museum; in his final year of life he was accepted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

For more on the cultural background and several poets in this book, see also: Anna Arustamova, “Amerikanskii kontekst russkoi proletarskoi poezii v SshA (1920-e),” in: Literatura dvukh Amerik (2017). As of April 2020, KVK and OCLC show show only two paper copies in North America, at Columbia and NYPL.

Book ID: 50962

Price: $2,500.00