Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow | Exhibitions | Victor Pivovarov - Moscow album

Victor Pivovarov
Moscow album

Moscow, 24.10.2018—3.02.2019

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Viktor Pivovarov
Moscow Album

With the support of: Mastеrcard, VOLVO CAR RUSSIA

The Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow presents an exhibition by the outstanding artist Viktor Pivovarov, one of the founders of ‘Moscow Romantic Conceptualism’.

Included in the exhibition is the artist’s new cycle of paintings ‘Moscow, Moscow!’ (2017), as well as his acclaimed album ‘Dramatis Personae’ (1996) and little-known albums ‘If’ (1995) and ‘Florence’ (2005–2010) which will be a real discovery for the viewer.

The exhibition includes a sound installation from surviving audio tapes of lectures by Merab Mamardashvili, Alexander Piatigorsky, Yuri Lotman, Sergei Averintsev, Yuri Mamleev and Genrikh Sapgir, the great philosophers, scientists, writers and poets whose work and texts are inextricably linked to the artist’s creative path.

Like other figures in the Moscow Conceptualist movement, Viktor Pivovarov makes a remarkable connection between the visual and verbal fabric in his art. This poignant interweaving of the fantastic and realistic produces a new metaphysical dimension in Pivovarov’s works, which are always tied to a specific time, place and extremely articulated psychological situation while at the same time always referring to something else. Each and every work by the artist is a concentration of existential energy, and simultaneously an absolutely free involvement in the polyphonic discourse of world culture and a lively, amicable exchange with those very close to him, or those encountered by chance.

In the album ‘If’ representation of the subject vanishes altogether. All that remain are ingeniously and simply explicated inner dialogues. As if we are viewing scientific tables, and as a result find ourselves drawn into a performance precisely directed by the artist, where the imagination of each one of us creates images, hears voices and fills what is happening with odours and tactile sensations...

With an easy sleight of hand the artist Pivovarov transforms the most serious things into a merry carnival accessible to everyone and dependent on the spectator’s own register of perception.

The exhibition title ‘Moscow Album’ explains the basic principles of the conceptual approach. The form of this album implies obligatory ‘attribution’ of the drawings, while the traditional, comfortable intimacy and a special, familiar atmosphere permeated with humour can be discerned in all the series included in the exhibition without exception, from ‘Dramatis Personae’ to ‘Florence’.

‘’... I tried to convey the universal energy that united the Moscow artists and poets who created the postwar Moscow myth, to convey what Mamleev describes as the ‘passionate desire to go beyond the boundaries of ordinary human consciousness, which felt like a prison’," says Viktor Pivovarov.

The Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow would like to thank the entire team at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art and Anton Belov for their help and support, likewise Danila Stratovich, the publisher and founder of Artguide Editions, for producing the splendid book issued for the exhibition opening. Special thanks to the wonderful artist Pavel Pepperstein, son of Viktor Pivovarov, for the idea of organising this exhibition at MAMM and for the excellent text he wrote for the book. The project would never have emerged or taken shape without Tomáš Glanc.

Viktor (Vitaly) Dmitrievich Pivovarov was born in Moscow on 14 January 1937. In the artist’s own words, he produced his first work of art at the age of five: «We were evacuated with mama to a remote village in Tatarstan. Three days from the railway by sleigh. No radio, no electricity. In the backyard I found some scraps of material, washed and ironed them, sewed a dress and put it on a stump of wood. I made myself an effigy so I wasn’t lonely. I’m just the same now. Essentially the way I make art hasn’t changed.»

He graduated from the M. I. Kalinin Moscow College of Art and Industry in 1957, and from the Moscow Polygraphic Institute in 1962. In 1963 Viktor Pivovarov met his future wife Irina Pivovarova, the author of verses and stories for children that he went on to illustrate. Together they devised and published such children’s books as ‘I Treated Everyone’, ‘A Little Spider and the Moonlight’, ‘Quiet and Loud’, ‘Tic and Tac’, ‘Two Very Brave Rabbits’, etc. The artist also illustrated Irina Pivovarova’s ‘adult’ lyric poetry such as ‘Words’, ‘The Apple’ and ‘Conversations and Miniatures’.

At the Detskaya Literatura [Children’s Literature] publishing house Pivovarov met representatives of the Lianozovo group Igor Kholin and Genrikh Sapgir, and through them, Ovsey Driz and Ilya Kabakov.

Irina and Viktor Pivovarov’s son Pavel was born in 1966. In 1967 Viktor Pivovarov obtained his own studio through David Kogan, an acquaintance of Ilya Kabakov. During this period the artist first turned to painting and produced a series of monotypes, ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony’, which he sees as the beginning of his creative activity. Among the artist’s first pictures are works such as ‘The Mad Militiaman’s Blue Spectacles’, ‘Ah and Oh!’, ‘Nails and a Hammer’, ‘Moscow Party’, ‘Mad Greta’, etc.

The five years from 1972 to 1976 were important for Moscow Conceptualism as a whole. Erik Bulatov created ‘Horizon’, Ilya Kabakov was working on his first cycle, ‘Ten Characters’, while Viktor Pivovarov painted his pictures ‘The Long Long Arm’ and ‘Projects for a Lonely Man’, as well as the albums ‘Face’, ‘The Garden’, and others.

In 1974 Irina and Viktor Pivovarov divorced, and in 1978 he met his second wife, the Czech art critic Milena Slavická, who had come to Moscow from Prague.

Viktor Pivovarov first exhibited his work in 1979. Many artists took part in the collective exhibition ‘Colour, Form, Space’. Pivovarov presented his cycle ‘Seven Conversations’. This was the artist’s only participation in a public art show before his relocation to Prague. In 1982 Viktor Pivovarov emigrated to Czechoslovakia and settled in Prague.

Six months before Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, a large retrospective exhibition of Viktor Pivovarov’s work opened in Vysočany in May 1989. In 1991 the Union of Artists announced an open competition for artistic direction of one of the Union’s Prague exhibition halls. Viktor Pivovarov and Milena Slavická won this competition, together with Adriena Šimotová and Václav Stratil. The gallery was called Pi-Pi-Art (Prague Project for Art). However, the premises were soon confiscated and Pivovarov’s work for the gallery came to an end.

Pivovarov was also involved in production of the contemporary art magazine Výtvarné Umění, of which Milena Slavická was the editor and later, in 1990, also the publisher.
From 1990 to 1997 Pivovarov unofficially acted as the magazine’s chief artist.

Viktor Pivovarov’s book ‘Agent in Love’ was published in 2001. The publication did not go unnoticed, and in 2004 the exhibition ‘A Mechanic’s Footsteps’ opened at the Tretyakov Gallery. At the same time the ‘Dark Rooms’ exhibition was held at Gallery XL.

In 2002 Viktor Pivovarov’s second book ‘Grey Notebooks’ appeared. The annotation states that ‘if the genre of ‘Agent in Love’ was close to autobiography, the genre of ‘Grey Notebooks’ is much harder to define. Here we have prose fiction, poems and documents’.

The book ‘On the Love of Word and Image’, issued in 2004, features the artist’s texts from various years that had only featured in hard-to-find publications or were previously unpublished.

In 2006 the Moscow Museum of Modern Art staged the exhibition ‘Lemon Eaters’, for which a series of nine large pictures was created, ‘Atlas of Animals and Plants’.

The Moscow Museum of Modern Art also showcased the exhibition ‘THEM’, in 2011. That same year the project ‘Philosophical Notebooks of Olga Serebryanaya’ appeared. Work on the project was conducted by correspondence between Viktor Pivovarov and Olga Serebryanaya. In 2014 this correspondence was issued by the publishing house NLO under the title ‘Duck Standing on One Leg on the Bank of Philosophy’.

The State Museum of Oriental Art held the exhibition ‘Foxes and Holidays’ in 2015.
In 2016 there were two exhibitions of Viktor Pivovarov’s work in Moscow: ‘The Snail’s Trail’ at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, and ‘Lost Keys’ at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. The same year the publishing house Artguide reissued the book ‘Agent in Love’ with some new chapters.

Work as an illustrator
Apart from his activities in the sphere of nonconformist art, Viktor Pivovarov created illustrations for children’s books as a means of survival that incidentally gained popularity among underground artists of that period. He made his debut in 1964, at the Detskaya Literatura publishing house, and has since illustrated more than 50 books. Since 1969 he has illustrated the children’s magazine Vesyolye Kartinki [Funny Pictures], and in 1979 he designed the magazine’s famous logo composed of letter-men, which remains almost unchanged to this day.

His work on the book ‘An Unusual Pedestrian’, published in 1965, proved a landmark. Pivovarov’s illustrations for this book prompted a wide-reaching reaction, with many accusations that he concealed

ambiguous secret symbols behind simple illustrations. Later Pivovarov himself admitted that he liked to illustrate children’s books because they allow freedom to interpret the text. Thanks to this commission he gained recognition as an illustrator, he was noticed. ‘... Artists and children love what never actually happens — dragons, wizards, wooden boys, gnomes and talking animals, everything born of fantasy and dreaming, everything that seems quite unnecessary for man, but without which he apparently cannot live,’ wrote Pivovarov.

After moving to Prague in 1982 Pivovarov has not abandoned illustration, and he occasionally still illustrates books for children and adults, while encouraging re-publication of his old books.

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