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 Vitaly Komar  (1943 - )

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Lived/Active: New York / Russian Federation      Known for: mix media collage, performance, installation-social commentary

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Ad Code: 3
Vitaly Komar
from Auction House Records.
Execution of Decembrists 1970
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Emigrating in 1977 with Alexander Melamid from the Soviet Union to New York City via Israel, Vitaly Komar, a graduate of Stroganov Art Institute in Moscow, is known as a cynical social realist.  Since the early 1970s until 2003, he has been part of a long-time collaboration known as SotsArt with Melamid.  Shockingly non-conforming at its inception in Russia, it combined Western styles of Pop Art and Social Realism and included methods of performance, photography, installation, music and poetry.  Of working together, they said:  "Even if only one of us creates some of the projects and works, we usually sign them together. We are not just an artist, we are a movement."

In 1976, a New York gallery hosted their first international exhibition, but the Russian government would not give them exit visas.  During this time both Melamid and Komar worked in a style they called 'Post Art', using multiple styles in their images.   "In one performance, they established a corporation, Komar & Melamid, Inc., that had as its purpose 'the buying and selling of human souls.'  They bought several hundred souls, including Andy Warhol's, which was smuggled into Russia and then sold for 30 rubles." Their first public sculpture was a bust of Stalin, installed in the Red Light District of The Hague in the Netherlands.

In America, they have had successful exhibitions, and their work is in the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  They received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the first Russian artists to do so.  Other projects include Naked Revolution, an opera featuring Marcel Duchamp, George Washington and Vladimir Lenin (1998), performed at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; and a project in Thailand to teach elephants to paint with resulting book (1998) and auction held by Christie's of elephant paintings, whose proceeds went to the care of elephants.

The last project of Komar and Melamid was in 2001 and was called Symbols of the Big Bang, which, by using symbols, they explored the connections of science and mysticism. 

ARTnews, September 2008

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