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Vladimir Zabavskiy. Russian/American Artist, born 1968

Vladimir Zabavskiy's oil and gold leaf paintings are created in a rich color palette coupled with crackling and layered effects. Three-dimensional quality images of his landscapes, portraits and abstractions may be obtained by using polarized 3D glasses.

Vladimir Zabavski, Artist, Portrait, artline
Vladimir Zabavskiy
Vladimir Zabavski, Artist, Happy Fish, artline
Vladimir Zabavskiy
Happy Fish, 2016
oil and gold leaf, 24 x 30"
Vladimir Zabavski, Artist, Heavenly Jerusalem, artline
Vladimir Zabavskiy
Heavenly Jerusalem, 2013
oil and concrete, 43 x 36"
Vladimir Zabavski, Artist, Mid-Manhattan, artline
Vladimir Zabavskiy
Mid-Manhattan, 2013
oil and concrete, 42 x 35"
Vladimir Zabavski, Artist, Observer, artline
Vladimir Zabavskiy
Observer, 2016
oil and gold leaf, 27 x 23"
Vladimir Zabavski, Artist, Cabin in Shenandoah, artline
Vladimir Zabavskiy
Cabin in Shenandoah, 2017
oil and gold leaf, 30 x 24"

Artist Statement

My artistic process is like writing in a diary, things or events that are important to me at the time are documented. First, I sketch. Then I prepare a canvas before adding up to ten layers of paint. As I paint, I experiment with pigments and textures until I'm satisfied with the result. In the end, it's important not to overdo the artwork but instead leave it somewhat unfinished.

- Vladimir Zabavskiy


Vladimir Zabavskiy and the History of Innovation

Artistic innovations are as old, well, as art itself. In fact, one might argue that art is innovation, starting more than 40,000 years ago when human communication developed from what are believed to be largely oral systems to include visual, kinesthetic, and other forms of expression. Since then, innovations in art, whether thematic, ideological, or technical, have occurred more or less frequently and more or less in connection with the arc of human progress. What seems to be changing, however, is the rate at which innovation occurs. It seems more frequent than previously, and as a result of the many technological advances which are reconfiguring our world.

Vladimir Zabavskiy is comfortable with these advances. He is excited by them-especially those in generative design which allow him to explore his interests in abstraction, color, and composition. Generative design and other processing technologies are not entirely new to artists. As early as the 1980's, interested artists have used computer software programs to create new images or to study the implications of the creative process, the choice to use this or that form, color, line, etc. More recently, artists have employed parameter based software to to create "best option" images. By best option images, I mean those images selected from the range of images created by runs of software application. Since these best images are selected by the artists and not the software programs, the artists are not eclipsed in the artistic process but rather empowered by it.

Vladimir Zabavskiy
Heavenly Jerusalem

Vladimir Zabavskiy

In Zabavskiy's work, for example, Heavenly Jerusalem and Observer, the use of processing technology allows him to create images of great complexity, depth, and formal balance. Studied in comparison with one another, Heavenly Jerusalem is light and ethereal, while Observer is heavy and dense. Observer is probably the stronger image for what it suggests about the act of observation, how it makes possible the acquisition of "data" to inform perception. Understood as a metaphor for observation, the image speaks to the influence of data upon the observer and vice versa. Understood as a metaphor for Zabavskiy's artistic process, the image speaks to the artist's use of generative design and to the effect it has upon his own artistic vision.

Vladimir Zabavskiy
Cabin In Shenandoah

Vladimir Zabavskiy
Happy Fish

In other of Zabavskiy's works, for example, Cabin in Shenandoah and Happy Fish, it is the juxtaposition of representational modes that generates interest. Often, artists draw upon different genres to create tension or to provide commentary on one form or the other. In Zabavskiy's images, he seems to have achieved a utilitarian reconciliation. Each form is distinct from the other, each form flatters the other, and, ultimately, each form collaborates with the other. The effect is heightened by a Byzantine influence which lends an historical perspective to what otherwise might seem a very contemporary artistic dilemma. Thus, Zabavskiy's new works speak to the seeming complexity of "modern" times and simultaneously remind us of those equally complex times which both preceded and fashioned our own.

John A Haslem, Jr.


Zabavskiy began drawing when he was in kindergarten but his fascination increased when he was older and able to draw humans and animals. His parents always encouraged him, especially his mother who worked at a film studio in Moscow. It was here that he became familiar with the cinematic arts. His grandfather, Arkadiy Zabavskiy, a student of Kazimir Malevich at Kiev Art Institute in the 1930s introduced him to his personal library. His vast collection of books contained visual information that, to the Soviet Union, was controversial and unwelcome at the time, much of it to do with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, as well as German and American Expressionists art. It was eye opening to Vladimir and he was hooked.

When he was young, music also had a huge impact on his artistic perspective. It helped him to discover happiness in a rather gray world. When he discovered classical artists like Bach, Handel, Stravinsky, and Stockhausen, he felt intense joy. Pop rock artists such as the Beatles, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones also created strong feelings of delight. His appreciation of the arts widened.

In 1995 Zabavskiy joined Young & Rubicam, a major global advertising agency as Art Director. He traveled the world with the company and learned about emerging computer technologies. He met and was influenced by American artists and photographers, Peter Beard and Robert Whitman. Zabavskiy and began thinking about moving to America. In 2001 it was his girl friend Olga (not me) who landed a job with a software company in Herndon VA. They got married in 2003 and he quit his job in Moscow and moved to the USA. He applied for a green card in 2004 and got it later with the category "Alien with Extraordinary skills." Today he is an American citizen and Graphic Design Director at the National Building Museum.


born 1968 Moscow, Russia

2004-07 Art League School, Alexandria, VA
1985-90 History Department of Moscow Pedagogical University, Russia
1977-1982 Moscow District Art School
1975-85 privately with Arcadiy Zabavskiy (grandfather)

public collections
National Building Museum, Washington DC


On the Verge of Bizarre: Vlad Zabavskiy
The Washington Post
By Mark Jenkins

Vladimir Zabavskiy, Artist, Happy Fish II, artline
Vladimir Zabavskiy's Happy Fish II, at the District Architecture Center

Vlad Zabavskiy has a studio in Arlington, a job at the National Building Museum, and a fondness for Georgetown and the Shenandoah Valley. Yet his Russian heritage is palpable in every painting in "On the Verge of Bizarre," at the District Architecture Center. Gold leaf and outlined contours evoke Eastern European religious icons, while geometric forms recall Soviet-era avant-gardists such as Kazimar Malevich. (A biographical note reveals that Zabavskiy's grandfather studied with Malevich.)

The show is divided among several categories, including landscapes, portraits and nature studies. All are in a similar style, save for a series of renowned architects, drawn realistically in pencil. There are eye-catching works in each section, usually the more fanciful ones: a butterfly made of blue shards on a gold backdrop, a demonically red-faced "Portrait of a Migraine." Most striking are three abstract but apparently architectural visions, rendered in circles of color on concrete. Suggesting skies, towers and imaginary cities, Zabavskiy demonstrates that his visual whimsies have strong foundations.

Through Nov. 17 at the District Architecture Center, 421 Seventh St. NW. 202-347-9403.



Artist Website