Komar and Melamid: A Lesson in History
The exhibition is a retrospective of two Russian-American artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, critics of totalitarianism behind the Iron Curtain who worked together from 1972 to 2003.
Komar and Melamid emerged from the circle of Soviet nonconformist artists who rejected the Soviet government’s dictate that limited artists to the propaganda-based style of Socialist Realism. Komar and Melamid were among the founders of Sots Art, which employed a provocative and ironic manner to expose the absurdities of the official art—and of the regime as a whole. Much like American Pop Art’s reaction to the overproduction of consumer goods, Sots Art was a reaction to the overproduction of ideology that rendered Communist slogans and symbols nonsensical.
After immigrating to the United States in 1978, Komar and Melamid applied their well-honed artistic practices to production in the American art market and enriched its contemporary art scene. By addressing historical, social, and political issues, they shed light on topics that recently have become extraordinarily relevant again. These include the functioning of personal freedoms in a totalitarian state, social and environmental issues, and the expression of political differences through the language of art. Their work provides an important cross-cultural link in the current international climate.
The exhibition includes installations, paintings, prints, and artifacts from the museum’s renowned Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union, augmented by loans from distinguished national and international institutions and archives (Tate Modern and Centre Pompidou among them) as well as major private collections, making it possible for visitors to experience works that are rarely exhibited for the public.
Organized by Julia Tulovsky, Ph.D., Curator of Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art
A 288-page book with 250 color illustrations is copublished with Hirmer Publishing and distributed by the University of Chicago Press. The book may be purchased at the museum reception desk or ordered through the University of Chicago Press.