December 11, 2019

Kabakov and Pivovarov Are Subjects of Exhibit

“SACRALIZATORS”: This graphite and watercolor on paper work by Viktor Pivovarov is featured in “Dialogues — Ilya Kabakov and Viktor Pivovarov: Stories About Ourselves,” on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers through March 28. A free exhibition celebration is Saturday, December 14, with a curator-led tour at 4 p.m., followed by a reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

A new exhibition invites visitors to delve into one of the hallmarks of unofficial Soviet art from the height of the Cold War. “Dialogues – Ilya Kabakov and Viktor Pivovarov: Stories About Ourselves,” on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers through March 28, focuses on the two artists’ work created in the format of the album: an innovative genre of visual art popularized in the 1970s by conceptual artists in Moscow.

Drawn from the museum’s Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union, the exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view several albums in their entirety. With loose pages of delicately colored images, often complemented by handwritten texts, an album is simultaneously a drawing and a novel, an installation and a performance. They serve as an inspirational model for audience engagement, telling stories that are at once specific and universal.

The public is invited to a free exhibition celebration on Saturday, December 14. A curator-led tour is at 4 p.m., followed by a cocktail reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

“Although this exhibition primarily looks at works that Kabakov and Pivovarov created in the 1970s, the passage of time allows us to assess how this period influenced their practices over the ensuing four decades,” said Guest Curator Ksenia Nouril, who organized “Stories About Ourselves” with Zimmerli Curators Julia Tulovsky and Jane A. Sharp. “Both Kabakov and Pivovarov have stopped making albums, but these works remain the foundation for their respective contemporary practices. Their albums also are significant in the broader legacy of the era, speaking not only to artistic expression in a certain place and time, but also to the circulation of that production globally at the height of the Cold War.”

Still active today, both Ilya Kabakov (b. 1933) and Viktor Pivovarov (b. 1937) were integral to the movement known as Moscow Conceptualism, which subversively flourished in the city from the 1960s to the 1990s. Artists worked in “unofficial” circles parallel to those of the artists who practiced in the state-sanctioned style of Socialist realism. However, the 1970s was a difficult decade, marked by social, economic, and political stagnation.

Kabakov and Pivovarov each produced dozens of albums, addressing the triumphs and tribulations of their everyday lives in the Soviet Union at the time. Whereas official artists had established networks of support, those choosing to produce art in unofficial capacities had to be creative with their resources, finding outlets around social, political, and economic limitations. Both artists shared their albums in the semiprivate spaces of their homes and studios with friends — artists, writers, and intellectuals. Among such friends was the collector Norton Dodge, who visited their studios and purchased albums, bringing them back to the United States and eventually exhibiting them for global audiences.

With some 120 individual sheets, the exhibition includes the albums Shower – A Comedy (1970s-1985), Mathematical Gorsky (1969-73), and Fruits and Vegetables (1979) by Kabakov, as well as Stairway of the Spheres (1975), Tears (1975), and Sacralizators (1979) by Pivovarov.

In addition, a selection of both artists’ paintings and children’s book illustrations created during the same period, as well as portraits of both Ilya Kabakov and Viktor Pivovarov, are on view. Drawings by Mikhail Belomlinsky (of Kabakov, 1980) and Eduard Gorokhovsky (of Pivovarov, 1977), and photographs by Lev Melikhov (of Kabakov, 1987, and Pivovarov, undated), provide viewers a glimpse of the artists. In particular, Melikhov’s photo of Kabakov pictures him with his albums shortly before his emigration from the Soviet Union.

“Ilya Kabakov and Viktor Pivovarov: Stories About Ourselves” is the second edition of “Dialogues,” the Zimmerli’s series of dual career exhibitions from the Dodge Collection, which is designed to increase historical awareness of the aims and impact of unofficial art in the former Soviet Union by highlighting a particular aspect of it

Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers is located at 71 Hamilton Street (at George Street) on the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Admission is free. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and select first Tuesdays of the month, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information, visit or call (848) 932-7237.