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January 16, 2001 to March 11, 2001

Komar & Melamid’s American Dreams

Timed to coincide with the Presidents Birthday celebrations during the month of February, Russian émigré artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid have "curated" an exhibition exploring the cult of personality surrounding George Washington, the collaborator's "adopted father."

As recent American citizens, Russian emigré artists Komar & Melamid present their own collection of over 200 engravings, souvenirs, postcards, children's books, and illustrations of George Washington along with eight large allegorical paintings and one large silkscreen inspired by objects in the collection. The paintings draw parallels between the depiction of Washington and Vladimir Lenin, another revolutionary hero, political leader, and "founding father." Komar & Melamid invent witty pastiches of these iconographic similarities as well as that of a third revolutionary figure, the early 20th century avant-garde French artist Marcel Duchamp. Komar & Melamid conceived of and produced the stage sets for an opera, Naked Revolution, in which-- in the dream of a Russian immigrant taxi driver--Washington, Lenin, and Duchamp debate the nature of revolution and which of the three revolutions is superior. A videotape of Naked Revolution (performed at The Kitchen in New York City in 1998) and forty of the studies for the stage sets are also included in the exhibition.

Vitaly Komar (b. 1943) and Alexander Melamid (b. 1945) began their collaborative endeavors while students at Moscow's Stroganov Institute of Art and Design, in the mid-1960s. After graduation, they joined the Youth Section of the Moscow Union of Artists, but were expelled from it in 1973, for what was considered their distorted representation of Soviet reality and their art's deviation from the principles of Socialist Realism. Viewing American overproduction of consumer goods as the equivalent to Soviet Russia's overproduction of ideology, they had initiated Sots Art (Sots being an abbreviation of "socialist," while "art" was taken from Pop Art). Like Pop Art, Sots Art employed parody, irony, and appropriation to acknowledge and critique the national hegemony. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, they became recognized as leading nonconformist/unofficial artists. Komar & Melamid came to the attention of the American art dealer Ronald Feldman, who first exhibited their work in his New York gallery in 1976. The artists moved to New York two years later and continue to live in New York. They became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1988. A portion of Komar & Melamid's American Dreams series was displayed at the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York during the fall of 1997.

Tags: installation, mixed media, painting