Ivan Chuikov - Important Contemporary Russian Art–Property from a Foundation London Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    Kunstmuseum Bern, Ich Lebe – Ich Sehe, Künstler der Achtziger Jahre in Moskau, 11 June – 14 August, 1988; Prato, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Artisti Russi Contemporanei, 10 February – 14 March, 1990

  • Literature

    M. Tupitsyn, ‘Eye on the East, Back in the USSR,' in Flash Art, 1988, no.141, p.125 (illustrated); H. C. von Tavel and M. Landert, Ich Lebe – Ich Sehe, Künstler der Achtziger Jahre in Moskau, Bern, 1988, p.156 (illustrated); J.Gambrell, Perestroika Shock, Art in America, February 1989, p.135 (illustrated); B. Groys, Artisti Russi Contemporanei, Prato, 1990, p.72 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Ivan Chuikov is a major representative of the unofficial Moscow art scene of the 1970s­80s. He grew up in a family of realists; both his mother and his father were famous Soviet painters. This meant that he received a thorough (and typically Soviet) training as an artist from early childhood onward, a classical education based on drawing from nature. In the early 1970s, he refused a career in official circles and began to show his work privately in the underground. Yet at the same time, he never denied his background, but turned to its critical investigation, embarking on a deconstruction of the metaphysical and mythological claims and pretenses of representation that had hypertrophied in the way art was understood in the later Soviet Union. In this sense, Chuikov is part of a great (if not the greatest) tradition in Russian art, connected to the conceptual investigation of the figurative image as a form of text. One can find this in the late Malevich, in Filonov, in the late Lissitsky, and then in Kabakov and Bulatov, who are Chuikov’s contemporaries.The origins of this approach to art reach back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when the forms and practices of Western figurative painting were introduced to Russia.
    Since the mid-1970s, Chuikov has been working on Fragments, the principal series of his work. Part of this series, the paintings you see in this catalogue are part of a unified composition called ‘Seven Fragments', 1982, and were first shown at the historical exhibition ‘Zhivu – Vizhu (I live, I see)' at the Kunstmuseum Bern in 1988. The series has the structure of a ‘loop': the first fragment is a section of one of Chuikov's earlier paintings, namely ‘Window XIX', and the last is a smaller part of the first fragment.
    When he describes the beginnings of the entire Fragments cycle, the artist almost sounds like he is stylizing himself after Kandinsky's famous story of how he first ‘saw' his first non¬figurative/non¬objective canvas in a painting accidentally turned upside down. Chuikov, in turn, says that he ‘discovered' the principle of the fragment when one of his paintings was leaning against the other. He sees the fragment as a new kind of non-objectivity, a possibility to detach oneself from the object, and this time not only from the object portrayed in the picture, but from the picture as a physical body itself. Subsumed by the media, the painting turns into a reproduced page or a projection. At the same time, fragmentation brings with it the discontinuities of a collage effect, destroying traditional hierarchies of centre and periphery, original and reproduction, between a work of high art and mass culture. For example, Fragment No. 4 of the present series is a football poster designed for primitive tri¬colour printing.
    The way in which Chuikov insists upon fragmenting images has both a purely aesthetic and a political dimension: fragmentation counteracts the image's totalizing claim: the image can no longer pretend to be organic. As strange as it sounds, the gesture of the quote itself (which would have previously seemed the most characteristic gesture of the routine Marxism that Soviet ideology was based upon) became an oppositional act. Chuikov has this in common with the artists of sots¬art, many of whom were his personal friends. In fragmentary quotation – and after all, quotation always fragments the text – ideology can no longer maintain the claim that it is absolute or unique. This is precisely why even orthodox Marxist philosophers like Ewald Ilyenkov or Mikhail Lifshitz were perceived as a potential opposition in the Soviet Union of the 1970s. In art, a similar process was underway: the gesture of quotation suddenly became ‘anti¬Soviet' and critical. So obviously, one could not publicly exhibit a painting like Fragment No. 6, which reproduces part of a Soviet propaganda poster, as one can tell by the hammer and sickle and the letter PS (part of the lettering of KPSS). The Soviet authorities saw the reliquaries and trappings of its power as magical images, and they could not allow their dismemberment.
    Long before any art market appeared in the Soviet Union, Chuikov was also able to comment on questions typical for the market's effects on the artwork, examining the problem of the original and its reproduction, or the older question of whether an artwork's integrity and the constant danger of its dissolution.
    Dr. Ekaterina Degot


Fragment No. 6

Alkyd enamel on wood.
214.5 x 149.8 cm. (84 1/2 x 59 in).
Signed ‘Iv Chuikov [in Cyrillic]’ lower left, titled and dated ‘Fragment N.6 1982 [in Cyrillic]’ lower right and titled ‘Series Fragments N6 [in Cyrillic]’ on the stretcher bar and signed and dated ‘1982 Iv Chuikov [in Cyrillic]’ on the reverse.

£30,000 - 40,000 ‡♠

Sold for £66,500

Important Contemporary Russian Art–Property from a Foundation

28 Feb 2008, 6pm