Komar and Melamid: Yalta 1945 & Winter in Moscow 1977
- Dates: March 16, 1990 through June 4, 1990
- Collections: Contemporary Art
February 1990: The Brooklyn Museum will display two large multi-paneled works by Russian-born artists Vitaly Komar (b. 1943) and Alexander Melamid (b. 1945) from March 16 to June 4, 1990, in the Museum’s Grand Lobby. Titled Yalta 1945 and Winter in Moscow 1977, the works are companion pieces dating from 1986 to 1987 and span the period of the artists’ time in Moscow, from their births to their emigration in 1977.
The Brooklyn Museum is the first site in America to exhibit these important works, originally viewed in 1987 in a different form at the Documenta 8 international art exhibition in Kassel, West Germany. The first work to be seen upon entering the space will be the freestanding Yalta 1945, into which are cut porticos that one may walk through to experience Winter in Moscow 1977 hanging on the Lobby back wall. Each work is executed in mixed media and stands twelve feet high by sixty feet long.
Yalta 1945 is a monumental work composed of 31 panels, each four-foot-square. The first panel is a cropped image of Lenin gesturing with a closed fist, above which are the letters USSU, for the United States and the Soviet Union. In another, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt are seated at the Yalta Conference. Stalin is portrayed in the Socialist Realist style, a commentary on the dictator’s imposition of that art form in the Soviet Union. The two Western leaders are portrayed in the Western, Abstract Expressionist style prevalent at that time.
Winter in Moscow 1977 contrasts with Yalta 1945 in its chaotic placement of panels and its concentration on the artists’ personal world. Here, 26 panels combine to form a skyline shape framing numerous scenes of private life like the cold Moscow winter when Komar and Melamid left the Soviet Union. Along with images of a typical snowy Moscow street, a New Year’s tree, and a page from a Soviet storybook, nude women are depicted as symbols of erotic adolescent fantasies.
Komar and Melamid met in 1963 as students in the Moscow Higher Institute of Art and Industrial Design (also known as the Stroganov Institute). They began to collaborate on works of art in 1965 and graduated from the Institute two years later. In 1977 they emigrated to Israel, and the following year they moved to New York. They became United States citizens in 1987.
The installation was organized by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum. The Grand Lobby installations are made possible by a generous grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. Additional support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
March 13, 1990: CZECH MODERNISM. On March 27 Charlotta Kotik and Ralph McKay, Curator Anthology Film Archives, will tape an interview for The Casper Citron Show. The program is heard in New York on WOR, 10:00 pm-midnight on Saturdays. Air date to come. Journalists from Welcome (the Philadelphia version of the Village Voice) and Insight (a regional newsmagazine targeted to the Washington, D. C. audience) were here to view the exhibition recently, as was the art critic for the Chelsea/Westside News and Commonweal. The April issue of Artforum will also contain an article. WNYC is coming out to the Museum to cover the show and to tape an interview with Charlotta this coming Friday. She has also taped an interview for National Public Radio which will be heard nationwide. And, you have all seen Michael Kimmelman’s New York Times review as well as Amei Wallach’s article in Newsday. Jerry Tallmer of the New York Post will be at the Museum Wednesday morning to review the exhibition.
WILLIAMSBURG MURALS: A REDISCOVERY will receive major national attention when the exhibition is featured on Sunday Today (the Sunday morning version of the Today Show with Garrick Utley) to be seen nationally on the NBC TV network. They will use footage from the Housing Authority videotape and will have a crew at the opening on March 29. It is tentatively scheduled to air on Sunday, April 9.
YALTA 1945/WINTER IN MOSCOW 1977. Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid will be interviewed about the Grand Lobby installation by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, heard throughout the country on National Public Radio. Air date to come. Kay Lawson of New York magazine and Pam Heller of Connoisseur will attend the Contributors’ Circle Preview on March 15.
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1989 - 1994. 01-03/1990, 047. View Original