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

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  • Provenance

    Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    Ivan Chuikov was one of those unofficial Soviet artists of the 1970s¬80s to embark upon extensive conceptualsemiotic investigations of Soviet visual culture and its posters, paintings, and monuments. On the one hand, these mass cultural images were quite close to those of Western advertising. Yet on the other hand, they pretended to be high culture, addressing their audiences from above with stern imperatives and demands instead of seductive propositions. Generally, the same is true of Soviet painting, which was dominated by a veiled didacticism. But its most unadulterated, obvious form could be found in regulatory markers such as road signs or safety posters. One would think that such material would be ideologically neutral, an international visual code, but actually, Soviet road signs were quite different from their Western counterparts. In fact, they seemed to epitomize the local context, so that an entire branch of Moscow Conceptualism (including Erik Bulatov and Ilya Kabakov, among many others) carried on in this visual-semiotic direction for quite some time, and with many interesting results.
    Ivan Chuikov first became interested in road signs in the early 1970s, when he made several cube-shaped sculptural objects, on which a flat sign took on volume, accreting or sucking up its surrounding space (the sides of the cube showed a sky with clouds, and even treetops). As a result of this operation, the sign undergoes hypostasis, as the abstract command gains new depth and volume.
    The painting in the present catalogue is a further development of this early composition. Here, the stick figures and symbols of the road sign take on a life of their own, interacting with one another in a parallel dimension. To put it differently, the naturalistic image of running children has long since turned into a conventional sign urging caution; but now, the artist reinterprets it as the image of a certain reality; to use C.S Peirce's terminology, the ‘index' becomes an ‘icon'.
    In general, Chuikov's entire artistic strategy is predicated on such operations with conventionalized signs, which are now reconnected to their long-lost referents. A stick-figure car runs over stick¬figure children, representing a tragedy in a world of toys. As is always the case in Russian conceptualism, all of this has a political dimension, as the artist subjects the falsehood of ideology to a reality-check.
    Dr. Ekaterina Degot


Road Accident

Alkyd enamel on masonite.
129.6 x 129.5 cm. (51 x 51 in).
Signed and dated ‘IV CHUIKOV 82 [in Cyrillic]’ lower right and titled and dated ‘Road Accident 1982 [in Cyrillic]’ on the reverse.

£30,000 - 40,000 ‡♠

Sold for £90,500

Important Contemporary Russian Art–Property from a Foundation

28 Feb 2008, 6pm