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It’s the Real Thing

Soviet and Post-Soviet Sots Art and American Pop Art

1999
Author:

Regina Khidekel

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An extensively illustrated treatment of this pivotal art movement.

Inspired by American pop art of the 1960s, sots art emerged in the Soviet Union during the 1970s. Both movements used irony, parody, and mockery to expose the core elements of their societies—in the United States, consumerism, and in the USSR, communist ideology. It’s the Real Thing is the catalog of a landmark exhibition in which the work of pre- and post-perestroika sots artists was exhibited together for the first time in the United States.

“The price plus the hip design standards make It’s the Real Thing a book to run, not walk, to buy.” Art Papers Magazine

Inspired by American pop art of the 1960s, sots art emerged in the Soviet Union during the 1970s. Both movements used irony, parody, and mockery to expose the core elements of their societies-in the United States, consumerism, and in the USSR, communist ideology. It’s the Real Thing is the catalog of a landmark exhibition in which the work of pre- and post-perestroika sots artists was exhibited together for the first time in the United States at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.

Sots art was originally produced in Moscow by nonofficial Soviet artists who grew up in the 1960s. Strongly influenced by propaganda art, they still remembered the aura of sanctity that had surrounded Stalin. Pop art provided them with tools to confront the objects of their consumerism-political slogans and official images. Instead of enjoying the adulation and mainstream success many pop artists experienced, sots artists were harassed and misunderstood, and their art remained underground and marginal. Not until some of these artists emigrated to New York City in the mid-1970s was sots art hailed in the United States as the first avant-garde movement to come out of the Soviet Union since the 1910s.

It’s the Real Thing features work by all the major figures of sots art, including Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, who founded the movement. By liberating culture from generations of accumulated fear and by embracing political changes and alternatives, sots artists created a movement that continues to influence contemporary art in Russia just as pop artists changed the American art world forever. It’s the Real Thing illuminates art and artists of this important and fascinating movement.

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Regina Khidekel is an art historian who received her Ph.D. from the Leningrad Academy of Art and lives in New York City. She curated the “Soviet Sots and American Pop” exhibit at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum.

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“The price plus the hip design standards make It’s the Real Thing a book to run, not walk, to buy.” Art Papers Magazine

“Illustrated with over 100 examples of paintings, sculptures and mixed media works by 28 Soviet artists, It’s the Real Thing comprehensively catalogues the development of Sots Art and its influence both in postperestroika Russia and here in North America.” Artichoke