Dictionary Of An Artist | The Drawings Of Viktor Pivovarov

Viktor Pivovarov

18 January -  9 February  2012

The first ever exhibition in the UK by Viktor Pivovarov, one of the founders of Moscow Conceptualism, and entitled “Dictionary of an artist” opens on 17th January at Pushkin House in London. The opening of the exhibition will be followed by a conversation with the artist conducted by Professor Sarah Wilson from the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Moscow Conceptualism grew out of the independent, unofficial Moscow art scene of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Although tolerated by the authorities it was cut off almost entirely from the official exhibition circuit and the state-controlled mass media. The name “Moscow Conceptualism” references both the Moscow underground scene and the Western, particularly Anglo-American, conceptual art of the 1960s which was well known to the Moscow Conceptualists. The performances, installations and texts of the Moscow Conceptualists constituted a critical reflection on Soviet imagery.

The art critic and curator Boris Grois coined the term “Moscow romantic conceptualism” and has written on “romanticism” in relation to the art of the Moscow Conceptualist movement. According to Grois, “Moscow romantic conceptualism” represents in itself the constant presence of experiences of Other Reality in all art practices in Russia, including those that radically broke all ties with traditions.

Pivovarov is one of the founding artists of “Moscow romantic conceptualism” and belongs to the older generation of artists who continue to influence younger Russian artists. He created his own unique poetic language which distinguishes him from other well known Russian artists such as Ilya Kabakov and Eric Bulatov. Pivovarov’s artistic position reflects his focus on the personal and “human” as opposed to the “superhuman” and the sacred favoured by the wider Moscow Conceptualism movement.

Pivovarov’s attitude is paradoxical: romantic mastery goes hand in hand with analytical reflection. Pivovarov was a student of the masters of socialist realism and even though he later rejected their teachings his work nevertheless contains elements of this tradition.

Pivovarov usually produces his art in large cycles of oil on canvas paintings e.g The Lemon Eaters, Eidoses, Philosophers. As such this exhibition of small drawings on paper is an unusual departure for the artist. As well as works from the 1970s & 80s, the exhibition will include new works by the artist.

This exhibition represents Pivovarov’s works on paper and comprises three series of drawings.

The first series is entitled “Stroll on roller-skates” and has a conceptual and playful character. Images in this series are consistently present in Pivovarov’s work, being a classic representation of his style, and so make up his artistic dictionary.

The second series of works is entitled “Poet in a snow-covered city” and was produced soon after the artist emigrated to Prague. The theme of desolation and loneliness, of winter, snow and dreams runs through this series. This reflects the situation of the artist. Pivovarov had lost his circle of friends and this translates through his works as a loss of his original stylistic features. It seems to him as though he is loosing his artistic language. One of the central images in this series becomes an individually portrayed head, and as the artist himself points out, this symbolises the rupture between “intellect and body” . Intellect, suffering in a similar fashion to the body, is abandoned and unwanted.

The third series bears the title “Kissing a tree” and comprises of works from different years, featuring a change in technique. These works are linked by the expressive artistic language and tension in the motives, which strip bare the depths of one’s physiological life.

About the artist:

Viktor Pivovarov is one of the most important artists in the history of Moscow Conceptualism. Together with Ilya Kabakov and Erik Bulatov, he created a visual language of conceptual painting, based on the aesthetic of Soviet propaganda. From the 1960s he worked as a book and magazine illustrator. In 1975 he was the first to introduce the word “project” into the Russian lexicon of contemporary art (series Projects for a lonely man). Also, together with Ilya Kabakov, he created a new artistic genre – the Album and produced many albums during his career: Tears, Face, Conclusions (1975), Garden, Eros (1976), Kabakov and Pivovarov (1982), Characters in a play (1986) and others. His works are held in museums around the world (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow; Russian Museum, St Petersburg; Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; Ludwig Collection, Germany; Museum of the Art of the Avant-Garde, Switzerland; Rudolfinum Museum, Czech Republic; Zimmerli Art Museum, USA) and also in private collections in Russia, Europe and America. Since 1982 he has lived in Prague.

“The Poet in a Snowy Town: Victor Pivovarov and Moscow Conceptualism” – article by Elena Zaytseva