Vitaly Komar on Collaboration, Creativity, and Conceptualism

World-renowned artist Vitaly Komar, founder of the Sots-art movement together with Alexander Melamid, came to Dickinson during the first week in April 2013. His presentation was called “My Experiences as an Artist in Russia and the West,” which he delivered to a lively, packed auditorium. Komar emigrated to New York City in the late 1970s in the face of censorship from Soviet authorities. The term Sots-art is a blend of the Russian word for socialism and the “art” in pop art, and has aesthetic and conceptual roots in both traditions. During his presentation at Dickinson, he entertained and engaged students and faculty with a visual and theoretical retrospective of his work from the 1970s to the present, including collaborations with Andy Warhol, musicians, and even two elephants. The morning following his talk, Komar had breakfast with several Dickinson students from a variety of departments (e.g. Russian, Art & Art History, and International Relations), where they discussed his art, creativity under totalitarianism, and practical advice for succeeding in a future career: “If you don’t love it, it’s no use,” he said.

 

Students in the Russian Department have been preparing for Komar’s visit in their Soviet literature and culture class, where they have been studying Socialist Realist literature and architecture. ┬áRussian major Caroline Elkin ’15 found the lecture “fantastic and engaging,” but “having the chance to talk with Komar over breakfast was even better (how many non-art students get to meet and have a conversation with a world-famous artist?). I think it helped connect something that seems bizarre and distant–art and culture in the Soviet Union–to my experiences growing up in the United States–for example, being surrounded by commercials and experiencing pop art as a response to American consumerism.”

A print of Komar’s 2005 work, Air Superiority, is currently on display in the Trout Gallery through April.

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