George Mason University is pleased to exhibit the artworks of New York-based Yevgeniy Fiks and DC-based Mark Kelner, two artists who explore the culturally symbolic and politically charged scenarios of their Russian – American roots.
RED!!! features different critical approaches by the artists to Soviet ideologies, imagery and themes. With contemporary use of photography, installation, painting and printmaking, Fiks and Kelner capture the essence of recent social, cultural, historical and political spectacles.
About the Artists
Fiks presents two series of works founded on different “micro-historical narratives” of the Cold War era. In his series, Homosexuality is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America and Joe I Cruising Washington, the artist creates scenarios that take us back to the Red Scare and queer-phobic days of the 1950s. He re-visits the McCarthy witch-hunting days and its tendency to purge homosexuals from government posts by labeling them as “security risks” – vulnerable to being blackmailed by Soviet agents. Ironically, the Communist Party USA also expelled gay members for fear of blackmail and likelihood of becoming informants to the Feds. On the Soviet side, gays were prohibited from membership in the CPSU until the 1990s where homosexuality was criminalized under Stalin and stigmatized as “capitalist degeneration.”
Kelner builds bridges between Russian and American cultures in which he was raised, using words and appropriated images to realize his notions of a post-Soviet reality. For Kelner, “the meanings of what is American and what is Russian take on both familiar and alien characteristics.” In his series, Moscow-Made American Born, Kelner traces the contrast of visual symbols and social systems that defined both cultures and their respective art histories. For example, in Stalinbucks (2012), the now ubiquitous Starbucks logo is morphed into a silhouette of Stalin’s portrait, merging two cultural icons. This play on ideas and symbols returns to Kelner’s work repeatedly as he merges history and popular culture, most recently in his series devoted to the works of Ilya Kabakov, one of today’s most internationally respected Russian artists, and quotes from popular US movies.
Whether associations conjure images of sacrifice, farce, danger or courage, RED!!! encourages viewers to focus on the implications of re-examining the history of the Cold War in contemporary terms.