Home Page
Significant Events
New Publications
About Us
Our Mission
Membership Benefits
Membership Application
Internet Resources
Contact Us

Komar & Melamid’s American Dreams

Komar & Melamid’s American Dreams

Philadelphia Art Alliance

January 16 to March 11, 2001

Opening reception: January 18, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Slide presentation by vitaly komar: January 18, 6:00 p.m.


Color catalogue available through PAA

Introduction by Mark Thistlethwaite

Essay by Neil Rector

Interview by Amy Ingrid Schlegel, exhibition curator


Concurrent exhibitions:

First-floor galleries: On Collecting

an exhibition of vernacular, popular, and mass-produced objects from philadelphia-area private collectors and curio-hunters. A collaborative effort between the philadelphia art alliance and the university of the arts’ graduate program in museum exhibition planning and design.

Third-Floor Gallery: Ruth Borgenicht: Fragile Connections

SATELLITE GALLERY (Rittenhouse hotel, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square, 3rd floor):


Philadelphia Art Alliance

251 S. 18th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19103

Tel. 215-545-4302

Fax 215-545-0767


email: info@philartalliance.org

Carole price shanis, president

Robert b. kimmel, executive director

Amy ingrid schlegel, ph.d., curator

85th anniversary season

Komar & Melamid’s American Dreams

January 16 to March 11, 2001

The Philadelphia Art Alliance is pleased to present a multimedia exhibition by the internationally renowned collaborative duo Komar & Melamid in its second-floor galleries from January 16 to March 11, 2001. Timed to coincide with the Presidents Birthday celebrations during the month of February, Russian émigré artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid have "curated" an exhibition exploring the cult of personality surrounding George Washington, the collaborator’s "adopted father."

As recent American citizens, Komar & Melamid present their own collection of over 200 engravings, souvenirs, postcards, children’s books, and illustrations of George Washington along with eight large allegorical paintings and one large silkscreen inspired by objects in the collection. The paintings draw parallels between the depiction of Washington and Vladimir Lenin, another revolutionary hero, political leader, and "founding father." Komar & Melamid invent witty pastiches of these iconographic similarities as well as that of a third revolutionary figure, the early 20th century avant-garde French artist Marcel Duchamp. Komar & Melamid conceived of and produced the stage sets for an opera, Naked Revolution, in which-- in the dream of a Russian immigrant taxi driver--Washington, Lenin, and Duchamp debate the nature of revolution and which of the three revolutions is superior. A videotape of Naked Revolution (performed at The Kitchen in New York City in 1998) and forty of the studies for the stage sets are also included in the exhibition.

Vitaly Komar (b. 1943) and Alexander Melamid (b. 1945) began their collaborative endeavors while students at Moscow's Stroganov Institute of Art and Design, in the mid-1960s. After graduation, they joined the Youth Section of the Moscow Union of Artists, but were expelled from it in 1973, for what was considered their distorted representation of Soviet reality and their art's deviation from the principles of Socialist Realism. Viewing American overproduction of consumer goods as the equivalent to Soviet Russia's overproduction of ideology, they had initiated Sots Art (Sots being an abbreviation of "socialist," while "art" was taken from Pop Art). Like Pop Art, Sots Art employed parody, irony, and appropriation to acknowledge and critique the national hegemony. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, they became recognized as leading nonconformist/unofficial artists. Komar & Melamid came to the attention of the American art dealer Ronald Feldman, who first exhibited their work in his New York gallery in 1976. The artists moved to New York two years later and continue to live in New York. They became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1988. A portion of Komar & Melamid’s American Dreams series was displayed at the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York during the fall of 1997.

Vitaly Komar will present a slide lecture on the theme of the exhibition during the opening reception on Thursday, January 18, 2001, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Komar’s presentation will begin at 6 p.m. in the second-floor galleries.

An illlustrated catalogue published by the Philadelphia Art Alliance accompanies the exhibition. It features: an introduction by Mark Thistlethwaite, the Kay and Velma Kimbell Chair of Art History at Texas Christian University in Houston; an essay on why artists collect by Russian contemporary art collector Neil Rector; and an interview with the artists by Philadelphia Art Alliance Curator Amy Ingrid Schlegel. A comprehensive chronology of Komar & Melamid’s career is also included. The catalogue is available for purchase through the PAA.

* * *

The Philadelphia Art Alliance is the oldest multidisciplinary arts center in the United States. Founded in 1915, the Art Alliance has been promoting the careers of emerging and established visual, literary, and performing artists by providing both exhibition and performance space as well as meeting areas for the exchange of ideas. Founded by theater aficianado and philanthropist Christine Wetherill Stevenson (1878-1922), the Art Alliance has been located since 1926 in the historic Wetherill mansion on Rittenhouse Square in center city Philadelphia.

Concurrent Exhibitions

January 16 to March 11, 2001

First-Floor Galleries: On Collecting

Why do people collect what they collect? This exhibition explores that question through vernacular, popular, and mass-produced objects from private collectors. Based on a open call, a small, eclectic group of Philadelphia area collections was chosen through on-site inspections and interviews with the owners. Selections were made according to criteria such as visual appeal, size of collection, and unique and unusual content. Each selection provides insight into the universal yet idiosyncratic drive to collect the odd and the extraordinary within a world of objects from our visual culture. Among the collections included in the exhibition are: white porcelain hands; model robots; newspaper clippings about serial killers; hippopotami figurines; and First Aid kits.

On Collecting is a collaborative effort between the Philadelphia Art Alliance and the University of the Arts Graduate Program in Museum Exhibition Planning and Design. The five graduate students co-curating the project are: Tabitha Doby; Vanessa Hofstetter; Anna Hanusa; Tao Hao; and Soryung Lee. Professor Jane Bedno is the Graduate Program Director at the University of the Arts.

Third-Floor Gallery: Ruth Borgenicht: Fragile Connections

Using interlocking ceramic elements, Ruth Borgenicht builds her sculptural forms by weaving individual pieces into a chain-mail pattern. Playing upon the association of chains as strong and impenetrable, the form belies the inherent fragility of the clay medium.

Borgenicht received her MFA from Rutgers University and is currently a resident artist at Hunter College, City University of New York, in New York. Recent solo exhibitions include: the Princeton Arts Council, Princeton, NJ; the Sande Webster Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; Chester Springs Studio, Chester Springs, PA; and the Lorraine Kessler Gallery, Poughkeepsie, NY.

Satellite Gallery: Elizabeth McCue: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Through the manipulation of scale and content, Elizabeth McCue has created a new installation based on the children’s game of "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not." In this case, the implied activity of removing petals from a flower is suspended in the large scale sculpture designed to create an environment of pure fantasy. In He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not McCue continues a series of work explorating scale and content.

McCue received her B.A. at Vassar College and studied Asian Archeology at the University of London. She then studied painting at the Art Student’s League and the New York Studio School, both in New York, NY. Several recent awards and grants include: Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Visual Fringe, Samuel S. Fels Fund (1998 and 1999); Merit Award from the New Jersey Center for the Visual Arts (1995); First Prize at the New Art of Pennsylvania Competition (1991); Award from the Pindar Gallery National Competition (1991); National Endowment for the Arts, Dance/Film/ Video Grants (1977 through 1983); and New York State Council on the Arts Grants (1977 through 1983).

The Philadelphia Art Alliance Satellite Gallery is located on the third floor of the Rittenhouse Hotel, 210 South Rittenhouse Square.

Philadelphia Art Alliance Garden Courtyard: Elizabeth McCue: Dorothy Was Here

Featured at the Woodmere Art Museum’s annual exhibition, Philadelphia Sculptors 2000, McCue’s sculpture Dorothy was Here appropriates the ruby red slippers from the film The Wizard of Oz. McCue’s transformation of Dorothy’s slippers into a larger-than-life sculptural installation also transforms the Garden Courtyard, visible from Rittenhouse Street and from the restaurant Opus 251, into an exhibition space. In this case, the suprising scale transforms the shoes into an imaginative outdoor sculpture.

Opening Reception for all exhibitions: Thursday, January 18, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Gallery Hours for all exhibitions: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

Suggested Donation: $3.00

Back to PRBC Events Page

Cultivating Economic and Cultural Partnerships
between the U.S. Mid-Atlantic States and Russia