Leonid Sokov
May 26 – July 9, 2009

Tilton Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of sculpture by Russian artist Leonid Sokov. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition at the Tilton Gallery and his first solo exhibition in New York since 1994. The opening reception will be held May 26, from 6-8 PM and the exhibition continues through July 9, 2009.

Leonid Sokov immigrated to the US in 1980 and over the last 30 years he has continued to work with the myths, icons and symbols of his native Russian culture. Sokov first came to prominence as part of the Sots-Art movement in the 1970s and 80s. Known for its ironic and absurd take on the tropes of Socialist Realist art of the Soviet Union, Sots-Art employed a Pop Art sensibility to re-engineer the visual language of its time.

Unlike his Sots-Art compatriots, however, Sokov was drawn to the rough, hand hewn, and “primitive” which more closely resembled a more common folk art aesthetic and commented upon the shoddy quality of Soviet industrial production. This exhibition presents sculpture and drawings from the last 30 years, from Sots-Art pieces to works with texts. “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 are my attempts to discover the roots of Russian and Soviet myths.

Russian culture for me serves the same function as the landscape did to the landscape painters of the 19th Century. It is a joy to re-read Gogol and Kharms and to find things that you never paid attention to before, and make fresh perspectives into fresh ideas and works.” In other words, for Sokov, the visual and literary culture of Russia is such a profound and vast landscape of worthy source material that he can continue to mine it for fresh and deeper meaning.

The multi-layered visual and verbal pun is a trademark of Sokov’s work. In Dollar in the Russian Style, a dollar sign covered in bear fur, Sokov playfully riffs on the symbiotic relationship between American capitalism and Russian might. In Russian-American Toy, the balance of power between the two cultures is unambiguously manifest as a plastic ET is pummeled and battered by the all-powerful Russian bear. In all Sokov’s works humor is a powerful tool for disarming the symbols of power.

Sokov’s drawings create a background for the sculptures. They are not necessarily studies for the sculptures, but add to the experience of the sculpture to create a multilayered polyphonic effect within the exhibition.

Leonid Sokov’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums internationally and he represented Russia in the 2001 Venice Biennale. His work is in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum, The Guggenheim Museum, The Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow among others.

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