The University Record, October 19, 1992

Artists transform monuments into messages

By Kate Kellogg
News and Information Services

The monuments that once stood as paeans to communism could, with a little work, be transformed to send a new message to future generations, according to Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, Russian emigre artists who will participate in next week's conference "Utopian Revisions."

The visiting artists will present some irreverent proposals for preserving and enhancing the likenesses of Soviet heroes in their lecture "What is to Be Done with Monumental Propaganda" at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 in Rackham Amphitheater.

For example, artists could sculpt pigeons onto statues of Lenin or embellish the statue of Felix Dzerzhinksy, founder of the Soviet secret police, with figures of protesters slipping a noose around its neck, say Komar and Melamid. In their lecture, they will present such ideas to "transform [the monuments] through art, as history lessons."

Komar and Melamid are known for their outspoken and humorous blend of art and politics, reflected in their invention of "sots art," a mix of Soviet Realism and Pop Art. The artists, whose visit is co-sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities and the School of Art, also will speak on their own work at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Chrysler Center Auditorium and at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at a brown-bag lunch at the Museum of Art.

Many of the artists' early works were smuggled out of Russia and exhibited in New York. In 1978, the artists were allowed to emigrate to Israel. The following year, they moved to New York City, where they now reside.

Their most recent works include "Searstyle," a multimedia collection that includes a Kenmore Symphony of refrigerator sounds, canned freedom and a leisure suit riddled with bullet holes.