Alexander Melamid: The Art of Plumbing
Presented by Vohn Gallery and Art Healing Ministry
In association with Indira Cesarine
45 Lispenard St 1W, New York, NY 10013
September 17 – October 17, 2014
Vohn Gallery liberated the space behind the sheetrock in an exhibit by artist Alexander Melamid, which opened in Tribeca, New York on September 17th at The Untitled Space. The artist examines the inner workings of the marvel of mass sanitation. Plumbing is revealed in all of its glory, through paintings, sculptures and a functioning toilet installation. The artist felt that plumbing was getting short shifted by the art world. The inhabitants of the art world, while constantly complaining about BS, would be well served to know that getting rid of the filth is just a flush away. “Once they experience the raw beauty of sewage systems, they will never think about pipes and O-rings the same way again.” The New York Times interviewed Melamid about his fascination with plumbing and the inspiration behind his exhibition, where he stated, “I think we need to open up the recycling station. Our world is polluted by art. It’s millions and millions of objects that are created every day…Art is not only physical pollution, it’s intellectual pollution. Spiritual pollution. I belong to the down-the-drain generation. We were promised salvation by art. I was a passionate believer, until I realized it was one of those allegiances, like spiritualism or theosophy…I’m trying to get rid of the affliction of being in art. Why not introduce a new curriculum? A course of plumbing or electrical work.”
Alexander Melamid (born 1945, Moscow, Russia) is a major artist who began his career in the Soviet Union of the mid 1960s. He came to prominence in the 1980s as one half of the duo, Komar & Melamid, who were known for their creation of Sots Art, an influential Russian version of Pop Art that satirized Soviet Socialist Realism. Many further projects were completed, including a landmark 1997 piece, People’s Choice, where the artists polled people in 17 countries around the world for their art preferences and painted works based on the statistical results. The duo split in 2004, after which Melamid went on to re-engage with fundamentals of art, painting Velasquez-like portraits of modern ‘icons.’ In 2011, Melamid began an ongoing conceptual art project, The Art Healing Ministry, which is a practicing clinic where the power of art is used to heal the sick and afflicted.
Melamid said in a statement, “Modernism in art began in earnest with that urinal, severed from the sewage system. It was a truly revolutionary act. In 1918 Maxim Gorky recalled a visit to the estate of a very rich friend. The property had been confiscated (or “appropriated,” in modern art parlance) by the Soviet government and populated with members of Red Army. What impressed Gorky most was that despite working indoor toilets, the whole imposing building had been fouled throughout with excrement. The estate’s entrance staircase was covered with frozen human feces. The grand drawing room and its precious Sèvre porcelain vases were filled with ordure. A real revolution gives its participants great freedom to publicly relieve themselves (or to “express themselves,” in the language of art).A minor revolution (or “farce,” to use Marx’s definition) was started in 1961 by the artist Piero Manzoni who sold a can of his own shit as art. Since then we have erected magnificent new museums with working toilets that nevertheless exist in a condition similar to that of the Gorky’s friend’s estate. Don’t forget that the purveyors of modernism in America were mostly Trotskyites. Permanent revolution was the cry of the day. Oh, those glorious days!”