Artspeaks: Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at the MCA, May 19

The cultural historian Svetlana Boym once called the monumental art installations of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov “memory museums,” remarking that each of these works “turns into a refuge from exile.”

Ilya Kabakov is a Russian-American conceptual artist of Jewish origin, born in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. He worked for thirty years in Moscow, from the 1950s until the late 1980s and now lives and works on Long Island with his wife, Emilia. Throughout his forty-year plus career, Kabakov has produced a wide range of paintings, drawings, installations, and theoretical texts—not to mention extensive memoirs that track his life from his childhood to the early 1980s. In recent years, the Kabakovs have created installations that evoke the visual culture of the Soviet Union, though this theme has never been the exclusive focus of their work.

By using fictional artist biographies, many inspired by his own experiences, Kabakov has examined the birth and death of the Soviet Union as a metaphor for the ambitions and failures of modernity. In the Soviet experience, Kabakov discovers elements common to every modern society, and in so doing seeks to materialize the psychological landscapes of urban secular life. Rather than depicting the Soviet Union exclusively as a failed political and social project, the Kabakovs’ installations treat the USSR as one of the many utopian undertakings of the twentieth century. By reexamining historical narratives, while simultaneously interjecting personal perspectives, the Kabakovs demonstrate that every project, whether important or trivial, public or private, destructive or emancipatory, must wrestle with the temptations of an authoritarian will to power.

A retrospective of their work together will be followed by a conversation with Matthew Jesse Jackson, Professor of Art History and Visual Arts (Univ. of Chicago).

For more information:

*Ticket Prices

Single event tickets:
$20—general public
$5 – students with valid ID

For tickets, call 773.702.8080

Time: Wednesday, May 19 7:30pm

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago Avenue


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