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  • Provenance

    Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, White Columns, Dirty Pictures, December 1982 - February 1983;
    Edinborough, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Komar and Melamid, August 10 - September 21, 1985: traveled to Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, October 6 - December 1, 1985; Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, December 10, 1985 - January 19, 1986; Arts Council Gallery, Belfast, February 1 - March 2, 1986, ill. in catalogue, p. 16;
    After Perestroika: Kitchenmaids or Stateswomen, Centre International d'Art Contemporain de Montreal, August 1 - October 10, 1993; The Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY, November 6 - December 31, 1993; DePree Art Center and Gallery, Hope College, Holland, MI, February 12 - March 27, 1994; Western Gallery, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, April 18 - June 11, 1994; Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, September 15 - October 23, 1994; Cranbrook Academy of Rt Museum, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield, Michigan, February 7 - April 2, 1995; Art Gallery, Mount Saint Vincent's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, November 12, 1995 - January 7, 1996; Atlanta College of Art Gallery, Atlanta College of Art, Woodruff Center, Atlanta, Georgia, January 26 - March 6, 1996; repro. in b/w in catalogue, p. 40

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Maybe time is the most important thing in contemporary art. The most mysterious. It carries us to death. Time is our big boat.” ALEXANDER MELAMID

    Girl in Front of a Mirror, 1981-82, is an alluring piece by the Russian born American duo comprised of Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. Exemplifying a key feature recurrently presented in their works, the present lot depicts how the most extremely personal memories are juxtaposed with the broadest historical contexts they live in. The girl portrayed here is caught in a deep, dramatic and very private moment of sexual discovery and awakening, with the audience clearly represented only as observers without any form of interaction. Observing from behind the mirror and with the tall red curtains that separate the setting from the audience, Komar and Melamid create an ambience characterised by a profound intimacy and extreme quietude. The context of the Communist Soviet regime is immediately outlined by the girl’s bright red scarf, together with the darker variations of the colour she is submersed in. At a time when the Western art world was fully immersed in the Pop-art scene that attempted to blur the line between mass culture and high art, the two artists produced a number of works unified by a goal of crossing the border between private and public.

    Komar and Melamid’s thirty year collaboration began when the pair first met at the Stroganov School of Art, where they mutually began producing works appropriated by a satiric perspective, influenced by the conscious fusion of Western Pop Art and Soviet Socialist Realism. This collaboration consequentially led to the emergence of the pioneering Sots Art movement, one that spurred loud controversies through its mimicking of ideological aesthetics that had been massively produced by the propaganda machine of the official Communist ideology. The pair was unsurprisingly expelled from the Union of Artists in 1973, charged with ‘distortion of Soviet Reality’, and their works were repeatedly destroyed by Soviet officials in the following years. This immediately led to an international scandal that allowed them to form contacts with a New York gallery owner Ronald Feldman, a central figure in their career development, who helped organise the secret smuggling of their work to be exhibited in the US.

    When captivated by this image, links to The Camden Town group inevitably surface. Both seem to make art that investigates scenes of visual as well psychological urban life, dragging the viewer into an exaggerated past reality, vividly depicted by the artist. While clearly a product of the Komar and Melamid’s imagination, the red colours that cover most of the surroundings; from the walls, to the curtain as well as the furniture, are crucial in emphasizing the suppressing historical context that the girl is a product of. Through the combination of subject matter and scenery depicted, references are also established with the works of the controversial Polish-French modern artist Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, known as Balthus, esteemed for his series of adolescent girls caught in pensive and pondering moments. The viewer is also confronted with a number of contrasts such as a personal moment juxtaposed with the broad historical context, as well as the sexual exploration against the strict anti-sexual conformist society she is part of.

    Based in New York since 1978, the pair produced an incredible oeuvre that is characterised by a mutual fascination with the theme of time, often explored in references to memory and history, two themes that are immediately translated to the viewer in Girl in Front of a Mirror. The present lot is a true testament to the idea that “art is a conception and form linked to our perception of time” (Natalia Kolodze, Komar and Melamid: Dreaming of a Trend, Artchronika 6, 2001, p. 92).

17

Girl in Front of a Mirror

1981-82
oil on canvas
182.2 x 126.4 cm. (71 3/4 x 49 3/4 in.)
Signed 'Komar/Melamid 1981-82' lower right.

Estimate
£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £554,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 16 October 2013