Vladimir Yankilevsky was born on the 15th of February 1938 in Moscow to an artist’s family. As an artist, he was educated at the Moscow Middle Art School, and then at the Moscow Print Industry Institute, from which he graduated in 1962. In the autumn of the same year Yankilevsky participated in the scandalously notorious Manege exhibition visited by Khrushchev, who cracked down on avant-garde artists in order to put an end to any de-Stalinisation of the Soviet system.
Over the following years, Yankilevsky was a designer in Moscow publishing houses in order to make a living, but mostly worked on his paintings and graphics in his studio. For many years he had no possibility of publicly exhibiting his oeuvres in exhibition halls, which were controlled by the Academy of Art and the Ministry of Culture. Only sporadic semi-official “closed” one-day exhibitions were possible at research institutes for their employees. It became possible to demonstrate his works only after the international scandal in connection with the assault on the so called “bulldozer exhibition” in 1974.
Yankilevsky’s first retrospective exhibition took place in Moscow in 1978. His art goes far beyond that of any school of national or foreign modern art, while at the same time taking in account the best in world traditions. His style can be described as “epic expression”.
Extreme sensitivity and eroticism merge in his works with an ultimate degree of conceptualisation of the reality. The fundamental concept of his art - Man against the backdrop of Eternity - took shape in the 1960s. The woman and the man humanise the conception of universal harmony. As the original concept of his triptych, it has become the main form of Yankilevsky’s work.
A second important principle is the elaboration of the idea of man as the epitome of the finite and the infinite. Every man knows he is finite, but in his imagination he can travel in time and become infinite. The notion of the past and present is superimposed on reality, and serves as the core for the existential drama of man.
Since his early triptychs and the graphic cycle The City, Yankilevsky’s works have permanently combined apparently incompatible images: the figurative and the abstract, the realistic and the psychedelic. Thus different worlds are juxtaposed and create a scale and universality of vision.
A special theme extending the picture of the world conveyed in Yankilevsky’s art is that of the human being’s mutation in the society in which names do not match their functionality, where trickery becomes normal, where lies are regarded as truth, where truth is considered to be lies, and where even one’s own physiology is dubious. This theme appeared back in the 1970s in two cycles of drawings and etchings, namely The Anatomy of Feelings and Mutants, and has continued to date.
In the 1980-90s Vladimir Yankilevsky worked in Cologne and New York. His works have been exhibited at 40 solo exhibitions, as well as over 170 group exhibitions.