The exhibition is a retrospective of the two renowned Russian-American artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, who worked together as a duo from the late 1960s through 2004. 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, a style that employed a provocative and ironic manner to expose the absurdities of the official art and the regime as a whole. A paraphrase of 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 they immigrated 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.
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