moscow city government
moscow city department of culture
moscow museum of modern art
KOMAR & MELAMID
Date: March 22 — June 9, 2019
Venue: MMOMA, 25 Petrovka street
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Curator Andrei Erofeev
With the participation of Joseph Backstein
The Moscow Museum of Modern Art together with BREUS Foundation presents an exhibition of the founders of Sots Art Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. This is the artists’ first retrospective in Russia. The exhibition includes works created by the artists as a tandem, which they now call «a character named ‘Komar & Melamid’». Among them are more than 20 iconic pieces from the collection of BREUS Foundation. The works Komar and Melamid produced before 1972, the year when the collective was formed, and after 2003, when it ceased to exist, are not included in the show.
In its design the show resembles a collection of quotes — works and archival materials from the artists’ iconic projects. The famous Sots Art series, which gave birth to this movement, is reassembled as it was shown for the first time at a Moscow apartment exhibition in 1974. Although Komar&Melamid’s largescale projects, such as «People’s Choice» (1994-1995), which demonstrates the «most wanted» and «least wanted» paintings of various countries, are represented by only few pieces, thematically grouped, they convey the artists’ key ideas. The character Komar & Melamid came to life with the aim to abolish Socialist Realism’s monopoly in the USSR, discredit modernism in the West, and build a new international style, characterised by aesthetic and philosophical eclecticism. This imaginary character’s initial endeavour lies in the heart of the exhibition concept developed by Andrey Erofeev with the participation of Joseph Backstein.
Occupying 16 halls on the second floor of the museum’s building at Petrovka 25, the show is divided into two sections presenting the artists’ Soviet and American periods. The way the show is designed reminds theatre sets — the exhibition designers Irina Korina and Ilya Voznesensky aimed to show the context underlying Komar & Melamid’s works. The installation-wise design is intended to immerse the contemporary viewer into the already distant reality of the 1970s-80s.
The exhibition is designed in a way so as to guide the viewer through the labyrinth of the Soviet period halls, which evoke the cramped space of communal apartments, the «red corners» and clothing markets of the last century Moscow. The projects are shown in separate halls and are supplemented by annotations assembled in a brochure-guide. The journey through the show starts with the works that demonstrate Komar & Melamid’s creative method’s characteristic features — eclecticism, the focus on «bad art» and advertising aesthetics. They are followed by the projects related to the visual languages of state propaganda («Nostalgic Socialist Realism» series, 1981-1983) and kitsch. The mock use of the images of power is shown as the major tool of Sots Art.
A small hall with the work «Transstate» (1977, from the collection of the Center Pompidou, Paris) serves as a transitional zone between the Soviet and American sections. While waiting to obtain permission to leave the USSR, Komar and Melamid created their own state (with its own Constitution, Declaration of Independence and currency — Trans State).
The exhibition’s second section demonstrates Komar & Melamid’s critique of modernism («Painting of Elephants», 1995; «Transstate»). The artists parody various modernist styles and dispel its myths including the cult of the artist-genius. In the curator’s view combining the critique of modernism with the revived Neoacademism («Diskobol», 1983; «The Girl in front of the Mirror», 1981-1982) and totalitarian art Komar & Melamid’s work has been part of postmodernist movements.
The exhibition concludes with Komar & Melamid’s project titled «Monumental Propaganda» (1992). In it the tireless opponents of ideological monuments stood up to defend them in the face of rampant vandalism which unfolded after the collapse of the USSR.
The show will be even more exciting for music-lovers. MMOMA together with Yandex.Music have compiled a playlist of the imaginary character Komar & Melamid. It refers to both the artists’ works and some episodes from their life. The «Komar & Melamid» playlist is available on the main page of Yandex. Music and in the app.
To coincide with the exhibition a monograph about Komar & Melamid written by the art historian and curator Kirill Svetlyakov will be published by BREUS Publishing as part of the monographic series on contemporary Russian artists «NEW CLASSICS». The book will be available at MMOMA ART BOOK SHOP.
The exhibition is a continuation of MMOMA’s program dedicated to introducing Moscow audiences to major Russian artists. The show is accompanied by an education program and guided tours (the schedule is available on the museum’s website mmoma.ru)
Vitaly Komar (September 11, 1943) and Alexander Melamid (July 14, 1945) entered the Moscow State Stroganov Academy of Industrial and Applied Arts (former Stroganov School) and met in 1963 at an anatomy drawing class. In 1972 they developed a new style, Sots Art. The «Komar&Melamid» project was born. In 1974 the artists participated in the «Bulldozer Exhibition». K&M’s first exhibition abroad titled «Color is a Mighty Power» was held at Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York in 1976. In september 1978 at the invitation of Ronald Feldman K&M came to New York and stayed there. In 1999 K&M participated in the Venice Biennale. The project «Komar&Melamid» ceased to exist in 2003. The artists stopped collaborating.
Andrey Erofeev (b. 1956, Paris) is an art historian and curator. In 1978 Erofeev graduated from the Department of Art History of the Moscow State University. In1984 he received his PhD degree in Art History with his dissertation titled «Artistic Movement ’Mir Iskusstva’ and Russian Culture of the early 20th Century». Erofeev has worked as an architect and a research fellow. He served as a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Russian and Soviet Architecture at the Central Research Institute of the Theory and History of Architecture. Erofeev was the Head of the Contemporary Art Department at the State Museum-Reserve «Tsaritsyno». During his work at Tsaritsyno Erofeev amassed a collection of nonconformist art of the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, which comprises more than 2000 pieces. From 2002 to 2008 Andrey Erofeev served as the Head of the Contemporary Art Department at the State Tretyakov Gallery.
Joseph Backstein (b. 1945, Moscow) is an art historian and critic. He curated more than 30 exhibitions including «Bath» (1988; men’s area of Sanduny Baths, Moscow), «IsKUNSTvo. Moscow — West Berlin» (1988; West Berlin, FRG), «Between Spring and Summer. Soviet Art in the Era of Late Communism» (1990-1991; Tacoma, Boston, Des Moines, USA), «Exhibition in Butyrskaya prison» (1992; Butyrskaya prison, Moscow). He is an author of more than 70 articles. Since 1991 he has been the Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art. He was the curator of the Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1999) and the commissioner of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2007-2016). He is also Corresponding Member of the Academy of Arts of the Russian Federation.
Irina Korina (b. 1977, Moscow) graduated from the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts in 2000 (Stage Design Department). She has also studied in the Institute of Comtemporary Art (Moscow) and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (Austria). As a set designer she has collaborated with many theatres in Moscow and Russia; since the beginning of the 2000s she has worked in cinema. In 2009, Korina was one of the exhibitors in the Russian pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. In 2017, her installation was presented as part of the major project of the 57th Venice Biennale. Her recent solo exhibitions were held at the GRAD Foundation in London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, and at the Steirischer Herbst festival in Graz, Austria.
Ilya Voznesensky was born in Moscow in 1970. In 1993, he graduated from the Moscow Institute of Architecture. Since 1993 he is a member of the «Iced Architects» group.
ABOUT BREUS FOUNDATION
BREUS Foundation aims to support and promote Russian contemporary art in Russia and abroad.
Foundation has amassed a vast collection of Russian contemporary art of the late 20th, early 21st centuries including iconic works by many prominent Russian artists. The works from the foundation’s collection are frequently displayed at exhibitions.
The foundation’s publishing program, BREUS Publishing, specializes in the history and theory of contemporary Russian art with the emphasis on monographs. The program’s major monographic series titled «NEW CLASSICS» is dedicated to the leading contemporary Russian artists who today can be called «new classics».
Established in 2007, the Kandinsky Prize is an award in the field of contemporary art in Russia. The prize serves to identify new interesting projects, support talented and promising artists, and strengthen the positions of Russian contemporary art at home and abroad. The award is one of the leading forces that has been shaping the Russian art scene and to a large extent has been defining its cultural and aesthetic content. In the autumn of 2019, as part of the collaboration between MMOMA and the Kandinsky Prize, an exhibition of the nominees of the Kandinsky Prize 12th edition and the award ceremony will be held at MMOMA on Petrovka.
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