Leonid Sokov: Ironic Objects

Leonid Sokov: Irritator, 1974
Jan 26, 2013 - Dec 31, 2013
Voorhees Gallery

This exhibition of approximately 50 works is the first major show in the United States of one of the most significant Soviet nonconformist artists, Leonid Sokov. Born in 1941 in the village of Mikjaliovo, Kalinin (now Tver) region, the artist studied at the secondary art school in Moscow and the Moscow School of Art and Industry (former Stroganov School). Sokov immigrated to Austria for a short time before moving to New York, where he has lived and worked since 1980.

Soviet nonconformist artists deviated from the officially prescribed patriotic style of Socialist Realism, creating their “unofficial art” following Stalin’s death in 1953 until Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika in the late 1980s. Sokov is associated with Sots Art, one of the most influential developments within Soviet nonconformist culture and prominent during the 1970s and 1980s. Sots artists mocked the regime’s efforts to control all forms of creative expression by distorting and defacing recognizable elements of Soviet propaganda in their work. While some artists examined societal attitudes and the hollow authority of Soviet power, Sokov addressed the monotony and deprivations of daily life. He applied strategies developed in Sots Art to a broader cultural context, juxtaposing traditional images of Russian culture with popular cultural myths of both communist Russia and capitalist America. Sokov’s multi-layered visual and verbal puns provide the viewer with a deeper insight into contemporary culture, politics, and life in general.

Sokov’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums internationally; he also represented Russia in the 2001 Venice Biennale. His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou, and Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow), among others. A new major book on the artist has been published in conjunction with recent exhibitions at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Zimmerli Art Museum. Contributors include Andrei Erofeev, Boris Groys, and Julia Tulovsky.

Organized by Julia Tulovsky, Associate Curator for Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art

The exhibition and programs are supported by the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund and donors to the Zimmerli’s Annual Exhibition Fund: Sustainer/Voorhees Family Endowment; Supporter/Jerome A. Yavitz Charitable Foundation, Inc.— Stephen Cypen, President. 

To learn more about the exhibition, watch this video that includes conversations with Suzanne Delehanty, Director and Julia Tulovsky, Curator.

Leonid Sokov

Irritator, 1974

Wood, iron, and oil paint with mechanism to move tongue

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union