Komar and Melamid in America
This exhibition presents the joint work of the well-known Moscow-born American artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. Their complex and multilayered oeuvre touches upon social, political, and historical topics perceived through personal experiences and presented with humor and irony that help to introduce their daring and provocative ideas to the viewer.
Komar and Melamid worked together from 1972 to 2003. They met as students at the Stroganov Art Institute in Moscow in the 1960s and soon joined the circles of Moscow nonconformist artists. Komar and Melamid were the first artists in the Soviet Union who dared to openly parody the regime, exposing the absurdities of Soviet life. Their example was followed by many others, and they can be rightfully considered some of the most influential artists emerging from the Soviet nonconformist movement.
In 1977, after five highly productive years in Moscow, Komar and Melamid immigrated to America, where they worked together for twenty-five years, until their separation in 2003. They settled in New York in 1978, after spending a year in Israel. By that time, they had already had two successful exhibitions at New York’s Ronald Feldman Gallery in 1976 and 1977, with rave reviews in major publications such as the New York Times. The question that many asked, however, was what their artistic future might be without the abrasion and suppression of Soviet dogma.
In America, Komar and Melamid immediately directed their irony towards US capitalism, consumerism, and art itself. The duo continued to apply their wit— now to the art market—enriching American contemporary art with their new approaches. Their parodying of stereotypes debunked and demystified not only Soviet officialdom but many clichés and assumptions about American politics and culture, as well as ideas held by the art world. In America, they created their most famous projects, including Nostalgic Socialist Realism and People’s Choice.
This exhibition gives an overview of their major projects in the United States and includes works from the museum’s renowned Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union, augmented by works borrowed from national and international institutions and archives, as well as private collections.
Organized by Julia Tulovsky, Curator of Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art