Carmen Latona, an English schoolteacher, humanist, writer, art collector and art dealer living in Northeastern Pennsylvania, has spent the last year collecting early paintings of the renowned Russian/North American artist Igor Khazanov. Latona describes art not as a hobby, but rather a vital part of his life. Latona came upon Khazanov’s work 7 years ago in a private collection in Montreal. Since then, he has been fascinated by Khazanov’s work, life and how the artist lived through the subjugation of Communist Russia overcoming his constraints to become one of the leading forces in contemporary art.
Commenting on Khazanov’s oeuvre, his body of work, Latona notes that “Khazanov depicts the human condition as it is, unfiltered in its emotional, physical and societal form. Khazanov’s recent paintings depict global, corporate, governmental and religious subjugation. He spares no one on the canvas because no one is spared in the 21st century. Khazanov portrays religion, oppression and globalization as causes of division doing more harm than good and having an overall negative impact on society.”
Unlike many other artists, Khazanov’s work is not locked into one particular style, but has dramatically changed over time. Khazanov, like many young Russian artists in the 1960s, relied on the government for commission, but he was, however, unable to paint exactly what and how officials told him to paint. Many of his paintings done before he emigrated in 1980 have muted pallets and earth tones instead of vibrant assorted colors of his mature years. Latona explains, “One of Khazanov’s tasks was to glorify workers laboring by a river, but when Khazanov painted the workers as they really were, the Russian media and government ostracized him and Khazanov eventually left the Soviet Union. He could have stayed in the Soviet Union and painted what the government wanted, but he refused and began his life again in North America at the age of 37.”
Khavanov’s self-portrait Crucifixion depicts the artist wearing a scarlet robe upside down on a cross amidst a blue background and flying doves as if the birds are screaming, “What peace has come from a death on a cross?” Metamorphosis 11 – Chicken Flu is part of a series that demonstrates Khazanov’s social awareness, concern and compassion without judgment of contemporary calamities. Latona explains, “The Metamorphosis series suggests a sense of unity to those of us preoccupied with the larger-scale aspects of decay, inequality, and environmental damage.” In this specific painting, Latona says, “A priest distances himself from death and a mourner at his feet, his face halved by the space between him and suffering. Khazanov contrasts the purity of pure despair with a self-conscious ritual of clergy. There is no comfort.”
“Khazanov,” Latona says, “should be thought of as fearless, undeterred, enduring, evolving and transcending.” The vastness of the subject matter in Khazanov’s paintings shows just this. “From lyrical portraits and nudes, to intricate narratives delving into the fabrics of global existence, fear, economics, subjugation and politics, he paints through his own movements until he is pulled toward the next.” Latona explains, “Khazanov has never yielded to style, movement, or trend, but rather follows his innate artistic direction.”