Vitaly Komar Catalogue
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Vitaly Komar
Biography
1943
Born in Moscow, former USSR.
1945
Alex Melamid is born in Moscow, former USSR.
1965
First collaborative work between Komar and Melamid and the start of the 'Retrospectivism' movement.
1967
Komar and Melamid graduate from the Stroganov School of Art and Design, Moscow. First joint exhibition, Retrospectivism is held for one day at the Blue Bird Cafe, Moscow.
1968
Retrospectivism shown at biologists' club, Puschino. Retrospectivism includes three-dimensional abstract paintings in the style of the old masters and reflects a typical search for spirituality on the part of non-conformist artists working in an oppressively atheistic state.
1969
Censors remove Komar and Melamid's work from 8th Exhibition of Young Artists, Moscow.
1972
Komar and Melamid create a movement titled Sots Art: Soviet Pop and Conceptual Art based on Socialist propaganda and mass culture.
Works include portraits of family members and self-portraits in the style of representations of official heroes, and works bearing popular slogans— "Glory to Labor!" or "Onward to the Victory of Communism!"
1972-1973

Installation-performance Paradise/Pantheon featured images of deities in various historical styles and movements, held at a private apartment in Moscow. Installation was visited by Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov, dissident leader and inventor of the hydrogen bomb. Demolished on state order in 1974.
1973
Komar and Melamid are expelled from the Youth Division of the Artists' Union for "distortion of Soviet reality."

Biography of a Contemporary, a polyptych of 197 panels, incorporates a multitude of styles, from erotic realism to expressionist and geometric abstraction. Works are widely reproduced in Western press and influence many artists of the 1980’s.
1973-1974

Post Art (from Pictures of the Future series) depicts masterpieces of American Pop Art as ruined exhibits in museum of the future.
1974
First arrest, for Art Belongs to the People, a performance in a private apartment, which was later reprised at the Kitchen (New York, 1984) and at an arts festival in San Archangelo, Italy, 1984.

Komar and Melamid participate in so-called “Bulldozer Show” — an outdoor exhibition of work by opposition artists, which was demolished by bulldozers on state orders (Belyaevo Park, Moscow). Among other works, Double Self-Portrait, depicting Vitaly and Alex as Lenin and Stalin in the Socialist Realist style, is destroyed by authorities. “Bulldozer Show” creates an international scandal, and authorities give nonconformist artists permission for an outdoor show in Izmailovskiy Park in Moscow.
1975
Sunday Party, a slide performance that is transferred to a videotape — first piece of video art in the history of Moscow conceptualism.

At the time of the first joint space mission between the US and the USSR, Komar and Melamid began their first work collaborating with the American conceptual and video artist Douglas Davis: Where Is the Line Between Us? 1975-78.
1976
Komar and Melamid petition to emigrate from the Soviet Union. While awaiting the state's decision, artists create magic Farewell to Russia series in photo-icons pierced with pins accompanied by sound recordings of shamanic chants.
1977
Authorities deny request for immigration, and Komar and Melamid create Trans-State, their own state, with discrete declaration of independence, constitution, currency, passports, and membership application to the United Nations.

In late 1977, first Melamid, then Komar, receive permission to join relatives in Israel, where they emigrate, settling in Jerusalem.
1977-1978

Tranda, a dog, is taught to draw in artists' first collaboration with animals. Later, in the 1990s, Komar and Melamid teach a chimpanzee named Mikki to take photographs with a Polaroid camera, establish an Elephant Art Academy in Thailand, and propose architectural projects for dams to be built in collaboration with beavers and for towers to be built in collaboration with termites.
1978
Komar and Melamid's first museum exhibition —Komar & Melamid, Matrix 43, Hartford Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut.
First work obtained by museum.
First book about the artists, Komar/Melamid: Two Soviet Dissident Artists by Jack Burnham (Southern Illinois University Press.)
1980
Together with students of the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, and Charlotte Moorman, Komar and Melamid create a series of installations and performances entitled, School of Revolution, for which they build Gallows and Guillotine, create slogans, and publish a revolutionary newspaper, the Boston Vodka Party.
1982
Komar and Melamid are the first Russian artists to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Nostalgic Socialist Realism series painting: I Saw Stalin Once When I Was a Child is acquired by Museum of Modern Art, New York; Blindman's Buff is acquired by Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
1986
By invitation of the Hague Gemente Museum, Komar and Melamid create their first work of public art: an installation with bronze Bust of Stalin and Herring, inside of a public phone/safety booth, erected in the red light district (the Hague, the Netherlands).
1987
Komar and Melamid become the first Russian artists in the history of the Documenta exhibitions invited to participate, Documenta 8 (Kassel, West Germany).
1991
In connection with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the artists begin the Lenin Mausoleum project.
1992-1993
Monumental Propaganda launched to coincide with beginning of destruction of Socialist Realist monuments in post-Soviet Russia. At Komar and Melamid's invitation, published in Artforum magazine (#9, 1992), more than 200 Russian and Western artists create projects to preserve monuments.
1995
The beginning of the project Ecollaboration, Komar and Melamid collaborate on abstract paintings with Renee, an African elephant at the Toledo Zoo, Ohio. Later, at the end of the 1990s, this event was transformed to the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project (AEACP).
1999
Thai elephant paintings and Mikki's photographs are shown in the Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale, curated by Joseph Bakstein, the first time work by artists without Russian passport is exhibited there.
2000
First ever auction of elephant paintings held at Christie's, New York, March 2000.
2001
Komar and Melamid begin work on Symbols of the Big Bang, a “...radical departure from their previous artistic practice. It explores the two artists’ personal spirituality and experiments with ancient symbols through large-scale paintings on canvas and drawings on graph paper.” (Mikhail Iampolski, Symbol and Origin, article in Fulcrum; an annual of poetry and aesthetics, No. 2, Cambridge, 2003, pp. 315).
2003-2004
With Three-Day Weekend series, Vitaly Komar begins to create deeply personal work, which marks the end of his collaboration with Alex Melamid.
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