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.