Russian painter, associated with Sots art, born in Sverdlovsk. His father was a dedicated Communist who had fought in the civil war but who, nonetheless, was arrested and imprisoned for a time in 1937. As a student, he seemed to be heading for a brilliant official career (one of his paintings was acquired in 1956 by the Tretyakov Gallery), but this was ended when he led a student revolt against the policies of the Moscow School of Fine Arts. However, he left with the necessary technical skills to work in the Socialist Realist manner and, to gain some economic independence, worked for some years as a book illustrator. As an *‘unofficial artist’ he took part in the open-air exhibition in Moscow in 1974 which was bulldozed by the authorities after a mere two hours. The previous year the French dealer Dina Vierny (see Maillol) had exhibited his work and during the following years it was increasingly visible outside the Soviet Union. He now lives and works in Paris.
The work is generally highly critical of the society in which he grew up. Self-Portrait (1968, Fondation Dina Vierny, Musée Maillol, Paris) shows the artist's face twice, a smaller version superimposed upon a larger within a kind of anonymous white shell, to suggest the kind of concealment of the self made necessary by the political system. Later work uses the devices of Socialist Realist propaganda to attack it. Krasikov Street (1977, State University of New Jersey) shows a group of modern-day Russians walking forwards quite indifferent to the giant image of Lenin striding purposefully towards them. Illusionistic scenes with powerfully suggestive perspective depths are overlaid with slogans which forbid entrance. Parallels have been drawn with certain Western artists, especially Ed Ruscha. His paintings in the West continue to employ a photographic style and retain a satirical edge, although now the target is consumerism.
D. Vierny et al., Erik Boulatov (2000)