Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present “Ayn Rand in Illustrations,” our second solo exhibition by Russian-born, New York-based artist Yevgeniy Fiks. Continuing Fiks’ exploration of repressed micro-historical narratives that highlight the complex relationships between social histories of the West and Russia in the 20th century, “Ayn Rand in Illustrations” presents a suite of large works on paper in watercolor, ink, and pencil. This first exhibition from Fiks’ ongoing series examining the uncanny resemblance between Rand’s aesthetics and that of Soviet Socialist Realist Art presents works referencing Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.
Author Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, better known in the US as Ayn Rand, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905. As a teenager, Rand saw the Russian Revolution unfolding from her bedroom window on the city’s largest avenue Nevsky Prospect. Shortly thereafter, her father’s pharmacy was nationalized and her family’s hardships began. According to Rand, she had rejected the Revolution from the outset and spent her teens and early twenties in a self-imposed “internal emigration,” finding escape in 19th century romantic literature. Rand left Russia for the United States in 1926, when the aesthetics that became later known as “Socialist Realism” were just in the process of formation.
For each of these drawings, Fiks and his studio combined sections of Rand’s prose (as they appear on the page in his copy of Atlas Shrugged, including the page number) with images of Soviet Socialist Realist paintings and sculptures, found in art books and magazines. Each letter of the text was rendered, as was the image of the painting or sculpture in grisaille. In the artist’s own words, “The Capitalist utopia of Ayn Rand and Communist utopia of Stalin become symbiotic and interchangeable in this project. The two ideologies rely on the same approach of representation through propaganda, idealization, romanticization, glorification, etc. “Ayn Rand in Illustrations” exposes the mechanics of Rand’s aesthetics and that of Socialist Realism indiscriminately. Through the juxtaposition, Socialist Realism and Ayn Rand effectively cancel each other: while Socialist Realist imagery become possible illustrations for Ayn Rand, Socialist Realist Art appears to be only useful today as illustrations for Ayn Rand’s writings.”
Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972 and has been living and working in New York since 1994. Fiks has produced many projects on the subject of the Post-Soviet dialog in the West, among them: “Lenin for Your Library?” in which he mailed V.I. Lenin’s text “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” to one hundred global corporations as a donation for their corporate libraries; “Communist Party USA,” a series of portraits of current members of Communist Party USA, painted from life in the Party’s national headquarters in New York City; and “Communist Guide to New York City,” a series of photographs of buildings and public places in New York City that are connected to the history of the American Communist movement. Fiks’ work has been shown internationally, including solo exhibitions at Winkleman Gallery and Common Room 2, both in New York (USA); Contemporary City Foundation, Marat Guelman Gallery, and ARTStrelka Projects in Moscow, and the State Museum of Russian Political History, St. Petersburg (Russia); and the Lenin-Museo, Tampere (Finland). His work has been included in the Biennale of Sydney (2008); Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2007); and Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2009, 2007 and 2005).