FORWARD: David D Burliuk In New York
people know that the Russian Avante Garde artist David D
Burliuk - a man who the great Russian poet Mayakovsky called
"my real teacher," and a man who is thought of
as the father of the Futurist Movement in his native country
- spent substantially 25 years of his later life in New
York, and was productive as an artist during that time.
one poet in the Hamptons - on the East End of Long Island,
a neighbor and friend of Burliuk for fourteen of those years,
right up until the day he died does - hopes to do something
DePazzi, a Hampton Bays resident, is organizing her memories
and gathering information on Burliuk's Long Island years
to write a memoir depicting her personal relationship with
the seminal artist during his time here.
a talented poet and literary impresario in her own right,
says that while her experience of David Burliuk's time in
New York is subjective, she feels that writing the memoir
will provide insight, for fans of Burliuk, into the experiences
of the man during this lesser known segment of his life.
was the family's gofer," she explains, "I saw
Burliuk right up until the day he died."
time Ellen DePazzi met David Burliuk, he was four decades
from being the man who, in the period 1911-1914, stirred
the pot of the volatile intellectual and artistic world
of pre-Revolutionary Russia.
year was 1952, and the day that she moved in, she recalls,
the flamboyant Russian artist - who had moved to Hampton
Bays in 1940 - was at DePazzi's doorstep with a bottle of
wine. From that moment, she developed a longterm friendship
with a man who "was truly the leader," she says.
"Others went on to greater fame, but he is elevated
in all their journals and books in Russia."
in Semirotovshchina village, Kharkov Province, the Ukraine,
David D Burliuk (1882-1967) studied at Kazan and Odessa
Colleges - as well as in Paris and Germany - before going
to the Moscow Art School from the period 1910-1914. His
first one man show was held in Russia in 1904; in 1909 he
was associated with the German Blaue Reiter and De Sturm.
to a Cossack family he was destined to become a prolific
painter as well as a poet, author, promoter of modern art
- and a showman par excellence.
most fundamentally, Burliuk was an artist who thrived in
the political and intellectual ferment of the era.
the era of the Russian Avante Garde, which produced such
greats as Marc Chagall, Vasily Kandinsky and the great poet
Mayakovsky; and which included a number of movements, particularly
Constructivism, Rayonism, Neo-Primitivism and Suprematism
, Cubism, Futurism.
ideas about the future of art, and promotion of new artistic
ideas, which began to coalesce in 1911 when he was introduced
to the intellectual Benedikt Livsht, who fostered an idea
of new philosophy of art based on "a heroic-aesthetic
which overthrew all the established canons of art,"
fit right into the time - and before long, he was a central
proponent of Cubo-Futurism.
was a non-objective style which combined the fragmentation
of form into cubist shapes with the futurist emphasis on
motion. Characteristically the movement went from monochromaticism
to the bright colors of neo-primitivism, adding vibrancy
to pictures that attract attention and suggest energy and
dynamism. The movement attracted such artists as Goncharova,
Larionov, Popova, Tatlin, and Kazemir Malevich - who went
on to a more purely abstract painting.
attracted to the movement was Vladimir Mayakovsky, several
years Burliuk's junior and also an art student at the Moscow
unflinchingly acknowledged during his lifetime that he fell
under "the influence" of the avant garde-thinking
Burliuk, and learned about modernist painting and poetry
through him. "Nobody can deny or minimize their friendship,"
says DePazzi. "Mayakovsky was fed, clothed, and daily,
Burliuk read poetry in many forms and languages to him."
Burliuk, Mayakovsky said, who saw his first poem, written
after a particularly dull concert in Sept 1912, and who
called him "a poetic genius."
of that year, Burliuk and Mayakovsky - along with Vladimir
Khlebnikov and others - had published their Futurist Manifesto,
entitled "A Slap In The Face of Public Taste."
In it, they demanded the jettisoning of Pushkin, Tolstoy
and other classic Russian literary icons for being "less
intelligible than hieroglyphics."
manifesto ordered respect for poets' right to enlarge the
scope of their vocabulary through arbitrary and derivative
words, to hate the language that existed before them, to
push away "cheap fame" offered by contemporary
literary society, and "to stand on the rock of the
word 'we' amidst the seas of boos and outrage."
the Futurist Manifesto was as outrageous a gesture as it
to their showmanlike instincts, the Cubo-Futurists were
before long spouting futurist verse from sidewalks and street
corners, roaming the streets dressed in outrageous capes
and costumes. Mayakovsky, Burliuk and their friends would
appear in public wearing wooden spoons or vegetables pinned
to their lapels, with images of animals or airplanes painted
on their faces, and otherwise did whatever they could to
shock the public and attract attention to themselves.
was very tall and hefty, wearing a yellow jacket with a
cluster of radish in the lapel and a glass eye," notes
Oleh Sydor-Hibelynda, in an Art-Line article discussing
a recent Burliuk exhibition in Kiev. "Khlebnikov wrote
of him, 'You responded to everything with your deafening
ho-ho-ho, because you knew your power...'."
to his painting, David Burliuk wrote poetry throughout his
artistic life, including during this period - having conceived
a movement that he felt could express itself through multiple
media. His poetry varied widely, but in its most modernist
form, was described by Livsht as being "cubism transferred
to the area of organized speech." In this form, the
work resembles futurist posters like those of the Italian
Futurist FT Marinetti, in which the geometric placement
of words resembles graphic design and concrete poetry. Other
poems, more linear, tended to include strongly confrontational
a poem from 1910, translated from the Russian by David's
son Nicholas, and provided by DePazzi:
is young, young, young,
A hell-of-a-hunger in his stomach,
So follow me!
Behind my back!
I cry a proud shout!
A short speech!
We will eat stones, grass,
Sweets, acids, poisons!
We will devour emptiness,
Depth and height,
Birds, fish, animals, monsters,
Winds, clays, salt, the swell of the sea!
Everyone is young, young, young,
A hell-of-a-hunger in his stomach!
Everything we meet on the road is a feast,
Prepared for us!
And we will eat it!
the while that he was castigating the status quo, however,
some other radicals of the era noticed that Burliuk was
also quietly studying the classics. Again Sydor-Hibelynda:
"Contemporary critics did not like him. One wrote acidly
that Burliuk 'spent days on end at the archaic section of
the hermitage...having mastered pencil drawings copying
academic paintings with photographic precision, a style
he so viciously attacked himself."
before coming to America, where this disciplined study bore
fruit, there were pre-revolutionary Russian adventures to
the Burliuk/Mayakovsky/Khlebnikov Futurist clique went on
a tour of seventeen cities, outraging audiences wherever
they went with their hijinks. The group even created a movie
about the events of their everyday lives.
Russian Revolution put an end to these heady days - while
Mayakovsky remained in Russia, many of the fervent intellectuals
left the country, including David Burliuk. In fact he escaped
Moscow in a box car headed east - and caught a freighter
to Japan, where he taught for a while utilizing techniques
that eschewed the traditional delicate Japanese styles in
favor of a vigorous, powerful technique.
early 1920s, Burliuk had found his way to New York City.
Settling into the Manhattan environment, he supported his
family as a typesetter on the lower East side, working for
the Russian language publications.
during this time that Burliuk hosted Mayakovsky in New York
- an experience, said the brash poet, which he said later
was frustrating and awkward. "Just consider my situation
in America," he wrote, in From His Life. "A poet's
been invited. They've been told he's a genius. A genius
- that's even better than being well known. I arrive and
right off I say, 'Gif me pliz sam tee'...the ladies move
away...the gentlemen distribute themselves in the corners
of the room laughing at my expense. So I shout to Burliuk:
"...tell them that if they knew Russian I could, without
even dirtying my shirtfront, nail them with my tongue to
the cross of their own suspenders, that I could roast this
whole collection of insects on the sharp turnspit of my
tongue." And the honest Burliuk translates, 'My eminent
friend Vladimir Vladimirovich would like some more tea."."
had found himself a new home. In New York, he would issue
from his Long Island home a 1926 Radio-Manifesto, declaring
radio transmission of poetry "the one and only style
of our epoch," and America "earth's greatest country."
am sitting now in a domicile on a wrecked bark," he
wrote in "The Universal Camp of Radio-Modernists, in
the section entitled "An Old Bark At Long Island. (Burliuk
lived many years in Hampton Bays, though later in life he
would leave every Christmas Day by train for Florida, where
he had a home on a causeway near Bradenton.) "The tiny
crystals of the Atlantic fill the air and inspire one with
dreams of immortality...Time has arrived for the richest
country in the world, America, to lavish part of its gold
on the creation of unheard of beauty."
Burliuk, he was already 44 years old and time was passing
quickly for showmanlike Futurist stagemanship. By 1930 he
was writing his autobiography for the historians in Kharkov,
and turning increasingly to the painting of fanciful peasant
scenes from his native land, combining naive representation
with a surrealism that carried with it energy, charm and
an engaging distortion.
it was during this time that Burliuk's classical skills
as a portraitist - and more personal devotion to traditional
national themes, such as images of Cossack horses, peasant
households - were to become increasingly important in his
later work in America.
latter stage in his artistic life has been dismissed by
some critics, though it frequently contains a distinct blend
of both contemporary artistic styles such as Surrealism
and Expressionism and more traditional portraiture and folk
scenes. In fact during his later years Burliuk was capable
of expression through a number of styles, with neo-primitivism
a major element of his informal sketching and drawings;
and an expressionist painterly quality with a hint of surrealism
found in his portraiture and more formal works.
an artist, Burliuk was extremely aware of his audience and
adjusted his style to meet the demands of the viewer,"
noted a Fairleigh Dickinson review of his work. "Burliuk
toured Australia in 1962 and is quoted in a newspaper article,
'these are the paintings people buy, so I do plenty of them."
"In America he became known as the American van Gogh,"
adds Sydor-Hibelynda, "The nihilism in his works was
somehow very cheerful. Pink American landscapes of the 1940s
are truly idyllic. Naturally they loved him in the United
DePazzi, while she is interested in the aesthetic legacy
of David Burliuk's later production on Long Island, her
primary interest is to create a memoir which reveals details
about the man and his relationships. "I am writing
from the perspective of one who knew him," she says.
in fact, who was there the day he died. DePazzi recalls
how s had gone over for lunch to the Burliuk residence that
day. "A show of his work was opening that day in Manhattan,"
she remembers. "His son framed the work and was delivering
it to the city, and Poppa Burliuk said he didn't feel that
he could go. He asked if I could take the train and go represent
agreed. "I went in his place," she said. "When
we got to the gallery, we went up the flight of stairs,
and just as we reached the top the director of the gallery
screamed, 'No, Not Poppa Burliuk!'"
DePazzi's view, incidents like these which she may recollect
are contributions to an understanding of the Russian Avante
Garde artist's life and times. "Artists come and go,"
she says. "Some of them don't become all that famous.
But Burliuk - and Mayakovsky? the voice of the Revolution
owes much to them. Today, both are to be found in museums,
libraries, in books around the world - and where else, but
on the internet!
DePazzi has her way, her memoirs of David Burliuk's New
York years will be part of that legacy.
DePazzi is inviting old friends David D Burliuk, and collectors
of his art, to share any recollections or personal encounters,
as well as photos and examples of his work. She can be contacted
by mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.