The University Record, April 3, 1995

Komar & Melamid to deliver Harris Memorial Lecture

Komar & Melamid to deliver Harris Memorial Lecture

From the Institute for the Humanities

Internationally known artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid will give a free, public talk, "In Search of Real People," at 8 p.m. April 11 in Rackham Amphitheater. The lecture is the last in the Institute for the Humanities' year-long study of the theme, "Work and Play," and it is the Institute's annual Jill Harris Memorial Lecture.

The artists, who began their collaboration in Russia in the 1960s, have a solid reputation for irreverence. Veterans of the Soviet dissident art movement, they helped to define "Sots Art," a mix of Socialist Realism and Pop Art.

They have created a successful career in the United States, with exhibits including a celebration of workers in New Jersey, a parody of Sears objects, and a call for proposals to redesign monuments in the former Soviet Union. The proposals from this last project were featured in The New Yorker and included an electronic display flashing over Lenin's tomb and a statue of two workers, arm-in-arm, about to step over the edge of what once was the monument's solid base.

Critics consistently use "witty," "joke-sters," "horseplay," "satirical," "tongue-in-cheek," and the like when reviewing Komar and Melamid's work. Indeed the challenge (and fun) in their projects is deciding what's really going on.

Their most recent gambit is "The People's Choice," in which they surveyed Americans' attitudes toward the visual arts. Using the resulting "data," the artists painted a pair of canvases that they refer to as the "Most Wanted" and "Most Unwanted" pictures in America. Artforum reported: "With the exception of the NEA witch hunt of the late 1980s and early 1990s, no art event in years has garnered the kind of attention the U.S. media has devoted to Komar & Melamid's ongoing project, 'The People's Choice.'"

In fact, the extreme popularity of the project has led to similar polls and paintings in many countries around the world, and it's not over yet. In China theirs will be one of the first opinion polls ever conducted.

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities, Museum of Art and School of Art. The artists will be present at a brown-bag response to their lecture at noon April 12 in the Institute's Osterman Common Room, 1524 Rackham Building.