Works on Paper


Woman as Fountain: Courtyard Sculpture Project, 1998
Ilya Iosifovich Kabakov (Ukraine, born 1933)
24 x 18 inches
Sheldon Good Family Charitable Foundation 2000-9-1

The child of Ukrainian Jews, Ilya Kabakov fled the Nazi invasion of the Ukraine in 1941 and began a life of displacement, exclusion, and exile. In the 1950s he studied graphic art and worked as a book illustrator under official Soviet patronage. During the 1960s and '70s he became a leader of a group of censored underground artists in Moscow that included Vitali Komar and Alexander Melamid, who also achieved recognition in the West. Kabakov moved to Paris in the late 1980s and to New York several years later, where he became known as the "father of Russian conceptualism."

Kabakov's works reflect his experience in the former Soviet Union, a modern superpower founded on the utopian ideals of Marxism, which eventually disintegrated. Absurdity and disjunction characterize his paintings and installations. He explores the distance between public and private life under Soviet rule; the disparity between Marxist ideals and the drab reality of daily life; the unique space in which "underground" artists existed, simultaneously cut off from official Soviet socialist realism and emerging postmodernism in the West; and the gap between the imagined Western audience and the disappointing first encounters with it.

Drawing on his own earlier graphic work as well as reflecting the ironic contradictions of Dada artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, Kabakov in Woman as Fountain: Courtyard Sculpture Project proposed a waterless fountain in the shape of a woman for a future public sculpture.

Text by Brenda Mitchell, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008

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