Igor Melnikov’s art defies easy classification. The Russian-born artist resists labels like Figure Painter or Symbolist, insisting that his depictions of physical objects serve as realistic presentations of ideas, rather than coded iconography. His subdued paintings, with their detailed depictions of people and things, are not the work of a stereotypical contemporary Conceptual artist either. Instead, Melnikov places himself in a more ambiguous territory: somewhere between traditional and conceptual, paying homage to both the technical mastery of Old Masters and the psychological subjectivity of more modern artists.
Melnikov’s duality as a traditional and conceptual artist gains clarity when examined against the restrictive backdrop of his upbringing in the Soviet Union. Born in Moscow in 1956, Melnikov’s early sense of the global art world was limited to black-and-white reproductions of great artworks, as the Communist party heavily censored the flow of international art. At 15, he enrolled at the Moscow Art Performance School. Even at an arts school, though, the global art world remained remote, as Melnikov learned a technique-centric, traditional Russian artistic style. By the time Melnikov and his fellow young Russian artists had conceived of seemingly novel ideas, they often found that their same tactics had already been employed elsewhere. They feared accidental plagiarism, so they looked for inspiration in unlikely places: as Melnikov put it, “junkyards were the Disneylands of our childhood.”
Opening Reception Friday, October 4, 2019 from 5 to 7pm.
Work by Traian Filip, Abel Galvan, and Igor Melnikov just entered the collection of Global Ties. This fascinating organization is “one of 92 community organizations in the nation that implement the prestigious U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in the U.S. Global Ties U.S. has an impressive alumni roster of more than 350 current and former heads of state worldwide, including Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and Mexico’s Felipe Calderon.”
18 January 2018
Russian artist Igor Melnikov is one of the top artists to emerge from the post-Soviet Russian art world. Unlike more opportunistic Russian artists who sought to make artwork that would appeal to the Western art collector, Melnikov has always remained true to his intimate belief in art as a spiritual practice.
Melnikov grew up fairly isolated in Siberia, where his mother was a scientist. His own childhood was spent largely in isolation, so he views the inner world of the child as the most pure vessel of humanity.
Contrary to what appears to be figurative painting at first glance, Melnikov views his own work as conceptual art. He presents the pure human vessel, in the form of the expressionless, innocent child; allowing the viewer to fill that vessel with meaning as they ponder the work.
Opening Reception Friday, November 17, 2017 from 5 to 7pm
[n.b. that this event takes place in Santa Fe]
Igor Melnikov’s and Edward Lentsch’s paintings share an ability to speak directly to the human psyche. Melnikov places the human child in his otherwise minimal paintings, with blessings scrawled in undecipherable Russian on the frames that surround and protect them. Melnikov considers himself a conceptual, rather than a narrative artist. He attempts to present an image we all recognize—the child—one with which we have no negative associations.
He considers the child to be the vessel for the human spirit, from which the viewer can taste the essence that binds us all together. Edward Lentsch approaches painting in a manner of primordial creation. He mixes earth, raw pigment, and other natural materials to create the atmosphere of the cosmos. It is possible to explore each of these artists’ works for extended amounts of time. Like the mind enters Melnikov’s paintings through the eyes of the children, the space and texture of Lentsch’s paintings allow the eye to meander in the sublime beauty of one’s inner world.
Opening Reception Friday, November 4, 2016 from 5 to 7pm
[n.b. that this event takes place in Santa Fe]
The month of August finds us featuring artists we have shown for a very long time along with artists more recently represented. All have the common experience of growing up in single-party states where they ran up against the authorities. Most have since emigrated from their countries of origin. The show features distinctly humanistic themes that struck a chord with the press. The July 30, 2014, Santa Fe Reporter ran a big, beautiful image by Nele Zirnite, and the Santa Fe New Mexican Pasatiempo features a long article with large color images by Hung Liu going over her personal story. We also got a nod from The Culture Trip out of London as one of the top contemporary galleries in Santa Fe. See the article here.
A copy of the Reporter article is here.
“For me, these are not portraits of children, but portraits of human souls,” says Moscow-born artist Igor Melnikov. Each is a picture “of a soul immersed in itself, reticent, perplexed, searching for and preserving a hope. If you take the message of this portrait to your heart, it is a portrait of you.”
Since Melnikov moved to the United States in 1996, he has attracted growing international interest. In a new book on the artist published by the Downey Gallery of Santa Fe, Suzanne Deats eloquently explains why. “His art cuts to the quick, for it reveals the original truth that every adult carries within, however deeply buried beneath the incrustation of society and survival.” She observes, “These fragile children … are oneself, one’s ancestors, one’s unborn grandchildren.”
Melnikov notes, “I often find that my subjects are perceived incorrectly, as children’s faces that are meant to be merely touching.” Although he may base his pictures on children he knows, images from memories or dreams, or old photographs, he is after more than an evocation of personality or an ephemeral emotional effect. “The face of an adult is biography; the face of a child is metaphysics,” he says. “I don’t like poetic generalizations, particularly about my own work. But, if I can dare to qualify the subject that interests me most of all, it is this: the little, weak human beings coming into this huge, brutal, senseless world, and being unwanted, uninteresting, and unloved by anyone. Ultimately, the existential conflict is expressed most clearly as the awakening conscience of the little human being in the face of the cosmos.”
New work from Igor Melnikov is dedicated to his “principal of simplicity.” “For Melnikov the work has no relevance if analysis is essential to the embracing and understanding of his paintings. The images must permeate that emotional core of our very being and transport the viewer to a place where logic cannot explain the experience before them.” This new body of work contains elements of departure from previous exhibitions, and needs to be seen by anyone interested in “the deep reach
Kudos to Igor Melnikov for entering the collection of Eastern New Mexico University. His piece “Clear Space” was installed in their brilliant new art building. Funding for the acquisition was provided by the Art in Public Places program of the incredibly far-sighted Department of Cultural Affairs office of New Mexico Arts.