Friday (from A. Aksinin’s Birthday Cards Series)

Alexander Aksinin

  • Friday (from A. Aksinin’s Birthday Cards Series)  2
  • Friday (from A. Aksinin’s Birthday Cards Series)  3
Basic information
Alexander Aksinin
Friday (from A. Aksinin’s Birthday Cards Series)
Date of creation
imprint on paper
Dimensions (height x width, cm)
9.2 x 13.1
Information about author
Alexander Aksinin
Artist's lifetime
Alexander Aksinin was a graphic artist and one of the brightest representatives of Lviv nonconformist culture. He was born on October 2, 1949 in Lviv in the family of a military cartographer and railroad official of the Lviv railway. Between 1963 and 1966, he received his art education at the evening art school in Lviv. Between 1967 and 1972, the artist continued his studies at the Ivan Fedorov Ukrainian Polygraphic Institute, where he specialized in Graphic Art. After graduation, Aksinin served in the Soviet Army, where he participated in the design of the exposition of the Military History Museum. Between 1974 and 1977, he worked as an art designer in an industrial design office. In 1977, he left the official service and began to work exclusively as a freelance artist. The apartment of Aksinin and his wife, the writer and artist Engelina (Gelya) Buriakovska (1944–1982), became one of the Lviv centers of informal art; first home exhibitions were held here. Alexander and Gelya were well acquainted with the representatives of the cultural underground of Moscow and Leningrad, in particular, with Dmitri Prigov, Viktor Krivulin, Ilya Kabakov, and others. They also had friendly relations with Baltic artists, first of all, with Tonis Vint, with whom Alexander developed a close rapport, and Polish ones. Since 1974, Aksinin participated in group exhibitions; in 1979, his first personal exhibition was organized in Tallinn with the assistance of the artist Tonis Vint. In the early 1980s, the poet Viktor Krivulin helped to arrange several of Aksinin's "kvartirnik" exhibitions in Leningrad and Moscow. On May 3, 1985, on his way back from Tallinn, Alexander Aksinin died in a plane crash over Zolochiv near Lviv. During his lifetime, the artist created 343 etchings, about 200 sheets of unique drawn graphics (drawings in watercolor, Indian ink, and gouache, including prints), as well as five paintings. 27 volumes of the artist's diaries for the period from 1965 to 1985 contain more than 200 sketches and a large number of drawings-ideas; they are partially publicly available on the artist's personal website. In 2015, Alexander Aksinin's etching series "Boskhiana" was included in the permanent exposition of the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center in Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. The works are stored in the Lviv National Art Gallery, the Estonian Art Museum, and the National Art Museum of Ukraine. In 1981, Alexander Aksinin wrote his laconic autobiography for an article by Viktor Krivulin, in which he consciously contrasted his inner world with external events, combining the facts of his biography with his own artistic and metaphysical experience: “In 1949, a seemingly Russian man was born in the seemingly European city of Lviv. Orthodox Christian. In 1972 – received a diploma from the Polygraphic Institute in the field of Graphic Art. In 1977 – the first revelation with a concomitant sense of time. In 1981 – the second revelation with a concomitant sense of eternity. In 1979 – the first solo exhibition in Tallinn. In 1981 – the second one in Poland. That is all.”
Object description
The creative world of Alexander Aksinin is characterized by a condensed intellectual atmosphere, which is full of "codes of aesthetic information". Numerous etchings by Aksinin are miniature "philosophical essays" embodied in complex systems of visual as well as literary and verbal texts.
This is an etching from A. Aksinin’s Birthday Cards series. Each year, on October 2, the artist created a "gift" etching card or sometimes two different ones for his birthday and gave prints to his friends. He began the tradition in 1976 and continued it every year from 1979 to 1984.
In the etching of this series dated 1981, the artist uses the "image" of a safety razor blade – the so-called "gillette", which has appeared in many of his works since 1977. For example, in one of his works, Alexander Aksinin wrote the text of Engelina Buriakovska's story "Occam's Razor" – a razor that cuts off all that is unnecessary – on the planes of two blades. In addition, the razor (blade) became a symbol of informal youth (hippies and punks), who often wore it as a pendant on a chain.
A dark silhouette of the blade is fixed in the horizontal oval, along which a flock of other "gillettes" "floats". Instead, an oval structure in the shape of an elongated eye with a pupil forms the vertical dominant, to which two pairs of long tubular handrails are directed on both sides. Over this structure hangs an oval "nimbus" with a blade-shaped slit. The artist used it as an association with a shocking scene from Luis Buñuel's film "Andalusian Dog", in which the blade cuts the eye. Under the vertical oval structure, two anthropomorphic blades with eyes, mouths, and hands are joined together. These so-called duplicates serve as the basic images in some of Alexander Aksinin’s works. At the bottom, between that pair is the sign of Venus placed in the middle of a circle marking. Above the sign and around the circle, there is an inscription "A. AKSININ FRIDAY" meaning that the artist's birthday was on Friday in 1981. Around the circle on the left there is a small author's monogram in the form of a regular and mirrored upwards letter "A", with the numbers 19 and 81 on its both sides. Small balls with some sharp spikes appearing here and there cover the background of the circle, a pair of blades, and the top of the pupil of an oval design as well as a large oval outside the dark silhouette of the blade. 
The author's concept was most likely influenced by the personality of King Camp Gillette (1855–1932), the science fiction writer and inventor of the first safe blade. He argued that all manufacturing should be concentrated in a single public corporation, and the people of the country should live in a single metropolis.
The "gillette" motif can be traced in several other artist’s etchings. The nimbus motif, reminiscent of a crown of thorns over skulls, appears in the final work of A. Aksinin’s Birthday Cards series (1984), which was completed six months before his death.