A Note from Alex Losett
My journey through art has been all consuming and was marked by a monumental break. A few years ago I completely reconsidered my assumptions about artmaking--the work has since led me from representational painting and drawing to conceptual sculptural relief and installation. The journey has been surprising, and I expect it will continue to be so.
I have always been an in-depth thinker and a feminist immersed in progressive politics. However, as a young artist, I cloistered my art making within the framework of “beauty” that had been passed along to me when I was too young to question any of its assumptions. I started my conscious life under the drafting table of my father –a Russian architect who authored an iconic monument of his time – the Piskarev Memorial. My family owned copies of Leonardo’s “Notebooks”, Rubens’s “Letters”, Vasari’s “Lives” and Alberti’s “Four Books on Architecture” and had a lifelong membership to the Hermitage Museum. I absorbed the view that art is a very long process in which artist is not a revolutionary hero but erudite custodian who takes art from the previous generation to add something to it and pass it along to the next. I sought to do just that, and for a time, my own work was deeply ingrained in this conceptual framework.
After moving to the US, I eventually noticed that American viewers’ response to my work was bound to very different cultural references, and my art was not landing as I’d intended. This prompted a fundamental conceptual revision, and I embraced the journey that followed. Sam took on both major technical and significant aesthetic roles in production of new work, and Losett Squared Art Collective was born.
We are overrun by creative ideas that we will be bringing to viewers as quickly as we can materialize them in art. These ideas have already been mapped out and we believe they will be exciting, unexpected and innovative within the art discourse.
Alex Losett's bio
Alex Losett has spanned two continents, two political systems, and three cultures, obtaining graduate degrees in fine art on both sides of the Atlantic. Her current work zooms in on contemporary American urban condition from the angle of mundane pedestrian reality.
Working in a new permanent partnership with Sam Losett, the [Losett] Art Collective, Alex is developing several distinct portfolios of Urban Panels series. The Urban Panels reinterpret the most mundane of urban activities—walking—and the most ubiquitous of city vistas—sidewalks—while commenting on much larger contemporary issues. Recently, the Panels took an unexpected turn in response to the political events of 2016-17, developing into a portfolio of political jokes in concrete and metal--the most enduring art materials--to up the ante on the prescient political flimsy.
Alex Losett was born into an architectural family in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her father, A.V. Vasiliev, designed such landmarks as the Piskarev Memorial and the Narvskaya station of the St. Petersburg subway. His huge drafting table stood by the windows; often, he chose to finish work at home instead of at the office.
Alexander Murzin, a professional artist, offered classes to neighborhood children. Murzin’s method was deceptively simple: he arranged a still-life and painted it alongside his students without much comment. Alex began taking classes with him at the age of seven, and this formed her early ideas about what it meant to be an artist.
Three years later, she was accepted to an intense four-year after school program for artistically gifted children. At fourteen, Alex entered the Ioganson Lyceum, a magnet school for fine art. Throughout these years, her family contended with her father’s illness. He was stricken with Parkinson’s disease and died when Alex was twelve.
At seventeen Alex passed the entrance examinations for the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture the country’s oldest and one of its most prestigious colleges. She ranked first in her incoming class.
The Repin Institute was a relic of academic art education that survived into the late twentieth century. The Institute allowed Alex to learn the craft of art; she shrewdly avoided Soviet propaganda assignments and extended personal exploration to the furthest possible limits. She earned her M.F.A. and graduated summa cum laude from the six-year program. The school chose Decembrists, Alex’s thesis painting, along with her Female Portrait for a show titled “Soviet Art from the Academy” at the New York Academy of Art.
After graduation, Alex became a fellow at the Creative Studio for Outstanding Young Artists. She completed a commission from the National Academy of Art, began exhibiting her work in the country’s premier public galleries, and started teaching at her alma mater. Her popularity as an instructor prompted the Head of Architecture, Alexander Zhuk, to invite her to teach painting and drawing to his graduate students.
However, the political references in Alex’s work were becoming increasingly transparent. Her still life November 7, while deceptively innocent, was also a comment on the state’s official ideology. This was immediately picked up on by the jury of the Annual Exhibition at the Central Exhibition Hall, and the painting was turned down.
Alex’s family was haunted by the fate of her grandfather, Nikolai Klisevich, who was a Chief Engineer of the Magnitogorsk Steel Mill and once a youthful believer in the 1917 Revolution. In 1937 he was summarily executed in a basement of KGB headquarters as an “enemy of the people”. His story never left Alex, and the instability that came with the demise USSR prompted her to take a chance. She left for Canada on a guest invitation from the Alberta artist John Brocke.
In Toronto, Mira Godard and Odon Wagner purchased some of her watercolors, providing Alex with much-needed resources. When she arrived in Calgary, Alex presented visiting artist lectures at the University of Calgary, Alberta College of Art and Design, and the University of Edmonton. She was invited to attend graduate school at the University of Calgary, and accepted the invitation.
To remain in Canada, Alex had to earn a graduate degree for the second time, working in a new language and within a different set of criteria. Immigration regulations barred her from employment and from applying to grants available for Canadians. As the Soviet Union disintegrated, Alex painted “Perestroika”, “Big Soviet Dream” and “Naked Truth” – images of turmoil, disillusionment, nakedness and exposure.
“Naked Truth” is an image of a nude young man covered only by the “fig leaf” of a Soviet passport –now barely fit to cover his shame. The background is a painted collage of the Communist newspaper Pravda (in Russian: “Truth”), with the Russian word for “truth” repeated in stark black letters on all four sides. Every photograph tells a story of the society’s disintegration, and every headline is subverted so as to comment on the condition of the young man and his country.
While at the University of Calgary, Alex had several solo exhibitions, including one on the occasion of a visit by Mikhail Gorbachev. This was followed by a one-person show at the Edmonton Art Gallery (the premier public gallery in Alberta) and the Muttart Art Gallery in Calgary. Alex’s application for permanent residency status as a person of national interest was approved and she accepted a tenure track position in Fine Art at the Red Deer College.
In the summer Alex took a residency at the International Art Studio program in New York and later directed her students in a year-long a mural project for a food bank in Red Deer. The project earned extensive media coverage including a report in Canadian Living Magazine.
Shortly thereafter Alex’s husband Sam was hired as an architect in Philadelphia. After living apart for one year, the couple chose to relocate to the US. The immigration process took longer than expected; having receiving her green card, Alex founded her own illustration company. The response from the market was immediate, as Alex created illustrations for projects in the United States, Egypt, South Korea, Russia, India and the Middle East. Her work has received multiple awards, was featured in multiple catalogs and several hardcover books, and was exhibited across the country and in Australia and Japan.
Alex returned to fine art with her Minimal Landscapes series. The Landscapes concentrate singularly on primordial, child-like encounters with nature that are deeply profound; they evoke marveling at leaves floating on a small, sunlit stream; luxuriating in the touch of moss underfoot; exploring the detailed topographies of a shale rock face. The Minimal Landscapes became part of ambitious installations that examined the tensions between individual, intellectual meaning-making and emotional response against a backdrop of the immense scale of cultural, human, and natural history.
Alex is currently working in partnership with Sam on the Urban Panels series - square reliefs designed to seamlessly fit into a wide variety of installations. Urban Panels reconsider contemporary urbanity, as they reference such diverse sources as fossil specimens, Tang and Sung paintings, graffiti art and political cartoons, and Minimalism and Pop Art. Produced via casting and construction in negative and positive relief and informed by ceramics and architectural model-making processes, the Panels mix postmodern irony with genuine contemplation, occasional poetry, and, at times, sharp political satire.
Urban Panels will be followed by Urban Scrolls, reinterpreting the Panels’ language for flexible surfaces flowing from vertical to horizontal exhibition planes. Square Roots and Love Park will investigate how urban flora conforms to industrial and intellectual grids. All series will connect within a broad, ambitious and original artistic message focused on contemporary urban issues.
In her studio in Canada