Alexey Steele’s Classical Underground: A Giant Experience by Sofiya Goldshteyn



“It is underground because we are not supposed to exist,” he explains. “Things in our capitalist society have to have a commercial function, and we do not. We have no purpose to exist, and it’s liberating.” The audience is drawn by nothing other than the hunger for the experience, and so they are lively, diverse, and passionate. The events begin and end the first Monday of every month. But it is not uncommon to find audience members lingering on the thrift store couches well into Tuesday morning, discussing the virtues of Vivaldi with the wild glassy eyes of people who’ve just been through… SOMETHING.
Alexey sees CU as a building block, a brick in a new artistic legacy being constructed out of the remnants of Modernism and post-Modernism.

“Deconstructionism is dead, dead, dead!” Alexey vehemently punctuates each “dead” with thrusts of his Newcastle. “But, there is an historic beauty of the experiment that we went through in the last century. It was fantastic, by deconstructing everything. Now we see all the parts in clarity. Since we’ve collectively deconstructed everything to the point that nothing exists, we can reassemble in any way we want, in any way we NEED really, not as a point of habit, but as a point of NEED. That’s Classical Underground.”

So what do we NEED? To put it simply: clarity of intent—the making of art for its own sake, freed from every purpose other than pure expression. His painting “The Irrepressible Power of the Human Spirit,” a work in progress (see page 9), is an allegorical vision of a new renaissance. There is a wink to the contributions of the Modernists, via an open tin can of Campbell’s tomato soup. But the can is open, its contents used up.

If there is an antithesis to everything Alexey believes, it is represented by the dog in the right corner—a reference to the 2007 art exhibit of Guillermo Vargas Habacuc, who tied up a dog in a gallery for days on end without food or water by a wall with the inscription “You Are What You Read” written in dog food. The use of torture for spectacle and fame (Vargas was invited to the 2008 Bienal Centroamericana to recreate his exhibit) is as great an anathema to Alexey as proclaiming it art, a stab in the heart of clear intent.

But despite that dark image, the main theme of the painting is hope, a belief in the triumph of the human spirit, an ability to renew oneself and break away from the bonds of the past. The central figure is a man escaping a modern torture contraption. In the foreground, he slumps forward, exposing the wounds where his wings have been amputated by the guillotine to his left, but as you follow his evolution to the background of the canvas, you see him sprout new wings and ascend upward.

While Alexey’s own work bears the hallmarks of a classicist style, he shares a kinship of spirit with a diversity of artists from different worlds. He speaks admiringly of ex-gang member graffiti artists he’s brought over to the studio who are as impressed by his giant Renaissance-styled canvases as he is with their tagging: “They said, ‘Dude! I want to learn to do that!’” Alexey insists they connect to his art because theirs is born out of the same need. It is the need to express without a second thought towards selling or practicality, “being creative as we go, art as living, this makes us the same.” Alexey considers these young people to be brothers in his movement, united by purpose rather than style: “We are entering an aesthetically multi-polar world. There is no righteous form, only righteous intent.”

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  1. February 2, 2010 @ 5:46 pm adrian

    I never experienced a music, deep and new for me, as I heard in classical underground montly concerts. Congratulation Alexey for your entusiasm and intuition. adrian

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