Yevgeniy Fiks: Communist Conspiracy in Art Threatens American Museums
Curated by Stamatina Gregory
September 8 - November 6, 2010
Opening with the artist and curator: Friday, September 24, 6 - 8 pm
Tyler School of Art, Temple University
12th and Norris Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19122
Hours: Wed - Sat, 11 am - 6 pm
In the late 1940s, Michigan Congressman George A. Dondero was an avid participant in the burgeoning McCarthy movement, a widespread cultural phenomenon characterized by the heightened fear, suspicion, and prosecution of suspected Communist sympathizers in the US. Creatively surpassing his contemporaries in the witchhunts for Red infiltrators, he became best known for his claims that the whole of modern art was a Communist plot hatched to bring down the West.
In this exhibition, named for a scrap of Dondero’s alarmist rhetoric, artist Yevgeniy Fiks operates within the mythical space of the conspiracy theory. Instead of mounting a retroactive resistance to the reactionary claims of the past (a project repeatedly undertaken in self-defense by artists, critics, and institutions since the 1940s and 1950s) he instead assembles evidence for those claims, piecing together names, quotes, and archival photographs to reconstruct a forgotten history of radical alignment and commitment to artistic agency.
Presented in the minimalist language of conceptual art, these prints, drawings, objects, and installations reduce artists and their works to specific identifying fragments: names, signatures, singular utterances, or snapshots. Here, the iconic visual language of familiar figures of Modernism—Stuart Davis, Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock—is stripped away, leaving only bare markers of Party affiliation in a gesture that ironically mirrors the operating tactics of conspiratorial rhetoric.
In Dondero’s speeches, two of which have been re-recorded by contemporary actors and presented here in a sound installation, the toxic workings of Modernism itself are both withheld and aggrandized, their power evoked, but never exposed. Even figurative drawings by Picasso and Léger, faithfully reproduced by Fiks, were chosen not for their style or allegorical construction, but for their revelation of sympathies with martyrs of the Communist movement: among the depicted are Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, executed in 1953 for conspiracy to commit espionage, and Nikos Beloyannis, who was executed in 1952 after re-establishing the then-criminalized Communist Party in Greece.
Fiks’ installation isolates and reconstructs a moment in the twentieth century in which two sides of a bitter ideological war equally acknowledged art as legitimate and potent weapon of revolution. Through gestures of subtle addition and radical subtraction, he continues his ongoing project of exploring the complex, but fundamental relationships and strange equivalencies between Communism and Modernism.
Yevgeniy Fiks: Communist Conspiracy in Art Threatens American Museums Gallery Guide is available! Click here for a PDF download.
Communist Tour of MoMA: Marc Chagall; Stuart Davis; Frida Kahlo; René Magritte; Pablo Picasso; Diego Rivera; Max Weber, 2010
Digital prints on canvas
30 x 40 inches each
Tour of MoMA with Congressman Dondero, 2010
Installation, digital prints on paper, series of 21
Drawings by Members of Communist Party of France: Ethel Rosenberg by Pablo Picasso; Henri Martin by Fernand Léger; Henri Martin by Pablo Picasso; Julius and Ethel Rosenberg by Fernand Léger; Julius Rosenberg by Pablo Picasso; Maurice Thorez by Fernand Léger; Nikos Beloyannis by Pablo Picasso; Staline à ta Santé by Pablo Picasso, 2010
Ink on paper
24 x 30 inches each
Stalin's Directive on Modern Art, 2010
Digital prints on paper, series of 40
6-3/4 x 11 inches each
Communist MoMA Highlights, 2010
Flag Drawings: Marc Chagall; Stuart Davis; Max Ernst; Adolph Gottlieb; George Grosz; Frida Kahlo; Jacob Lawrence; Fernand Léger; René Magritte; Henri Matisse; Pablo Picasso; Jackson Pollock; Diego Rivera; David Alfaro Siqueiros; Max Weber, 2010
Ink on paper
22-1/2 x 28-1/2 inches each
Congressional Record: Communist Conspiracy in Art Threatens American Museums, 2010
Congressional Record: UNESCO -- Communism and Modern Art, 2010
All works are courtesy of the artist and Winkleman Gallery, New York
Temple Gallery is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts
and Friends of Temple Gallery.
Image: installation view of Yevgeniy Fiks, Tour of MoMA with Congressman Dondero (Communist Conspiracy in Art ...), 2010, at Temple Gallery, Tyler School of Art, Temple University.