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White Gray Black

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

Russian graphic, conceptual and installation artist of Ukrainian birth. In 1957 he graduated from Surikov Art Institute in Moscow, where he specialized as an illustrator. Many years of producing artwork for children’s literature, for the Moscow Detskaya Literatura and Malysh publishing houses and the magazines Murzilka and Vesyolyye kartinki, partly shaped his slyly ironic graphic style; working as an illustrator was his only means of earning a living when avant-garde experimentation was officially banned. After experimenting with Abstract Expressionism and an absurd neo-Surrealist grotesque style, in 1970–78 he produced distinctive albums which, through a subtle interplay of visual and verbal elements, reveal disturbing existential contradictions. Best known is the album Okno (‘The window’), published in 1985 in Berne. Since 1978 Kabakov’s art has become more conceptual and he has created what he calls zhek picture displays (from the acronym ZhEK, referring to housing management), which parody wall newspapers and Soviet posters. These works are typical of Sots art, of which he was a founder: a style that employs and devalues the clichés of Soviet mass culture. In the 1980s he turned to large installations (e.g. The Man who Flew into Space from his Apartment, 1981–8; New York, Ronald Feldman Fine Art), bringing together in three dimensions domestic refuse, personal items and 1950s propaganda stereotypes. Here he produced a strange symbiosis of images of ordinary life and the political myths of totalitarianism, which connect his work with the political and economic transformation ( perestroyka) of the period in Russia.

M. N. Sokolov
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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