Leonid Sokov: Artist Statement

This exhibition gives me the opportunity to show the works, from Sots–Art to works with text, created in different years, but never before exhibited. Most often, these works were the result of my personal dialogue with the well-known literary and visual works of Russian culture, and ideas of modernism. They represent attempts to explore the roots of Russian and Soviet cultural myths.

The changing cultural context requires constant revision of myths, as well as the icons and symbols in which myths are expressed. This can be most clearly seen in the design of clothing. Pants, jackets, shirts have not changed in their function, but every season fashion designers keep changing their styles, making them seductive to the consumers through an element of novelty.  For me, the novelty is the most valued quality in other artists' works, as well as in my own.

I think of myself more and more as a part of Russian culture. Re-reading Gogol and Kharms or taking a stroll in the Tretyakov Art Gallery gives me the same pleasure as does rummaging through a closet of my grandmother's old family house. There you can suddenly discover something you have never paid attention to, and now, with joy, you begin to see it in a new light. The same way you can suddenly discover new ideas in another artist's well-familiar work, and then create your own new work from these ideas. For me, Russian culture serves as an inspirational conceptual source, similar to the way landscape served the nineteenth-century landscape painter.

Each new generation draws attention to some other, new aspects of the same phenomenon than did the previous one; this way the old idea gets adapted to contemporaneity. The twentieth century from the outset announced the death of painting and sculpture, yet that century gave us exceptional examples of both.

Text, like an acid, erodes the very idea of visual perception. It's a pity to see the audience looking at a Turner or a Chardin with headphones on. What more can a viewer hear on the headphones than he or she could see in the painting? In history, there have been a lot of things that happened through the simple process of looking; the act of looking is actually accountable for a lot of innovations that happen in our culture, and in life.

The drawings at the exhibition supply a background for the sculptures. They are not necessarily studies for the sculptures. They are intended to overlap with the meaning of the sculpture and to reveal the multilayered process of artistic creation, contributing to its polyphonic effect.

translated from Russian by Irina Gutkin