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By Michael E. Miller
The most notable of the drawings, collages, postcards, laser prints, photocopies, and typewritten texts received by Komar and Melamid are on exhibit in the Bass's second-floor galleries in 26 separate display cases. Each glass case rests on a large plaster bust of Stalin, placed upside down.
All of these small paper works are wonderfully rendered. They are both silly and poignant, thought-provoking reminders of the subjectivity of history and the throwaway nature of culture. Like-minded ideas are displayed together. For example, there's Les Levine's proposal for a Fallen Idol Theme Park, inspired by an actual newspaper photograph of schoolchildren sitting on a toppled statue of Stalin; in the same display case is Michel Gerard and Marina Temkina's Post-Leninist Crop, a drawing that shows the pedestals of a group of statues inverted and planted in the ground, with vegetable gardens planted on their top sides.
Other artists poke fun at the Russians' official change in values. Leonid Lamm turns a sculpture of a hammer and sickle into a dollar sign. Olga Ziangirova suggests making lamps from the granite in Lenin's tomb. Thomas Lawson would use several Lenin heads to make the Lenin Drinking Fountain, "the fountainhead of revolutionary wisdom," a marketable souvenir of the former USSR.
Similarly, Laurence Warshaw submits an idea for a Lenin Ice Cream Monument Bar, and Constantin Boym suggests leasing the statues to Western corporations. His Endorsed by Lenin (Monumental Advertising II) is a mockup of a Lenin statue whose pedestal has been embossed with the Nike logo. Lenin holds a sneaker in his outstretched hand.
More subtle changes to old monuments were conceived by other artists. One display includes cartoonist Art Spiegelman's photocopy of a photograph of Moscow's Monument of the Proletariat and Agriculture, a statue of a fervid young revolutionary couple striding forward. Spiegelman calls his version of the monument One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (After) -- he's manipulated the photograph so that the couple appears ready to step right off the pedestal and fall flat on their faces.
In another display case, conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth's ingenious project pays homage to ignored Soviet artists who crafted the pedestals for the celebrated monuments. He points out that while cultural apparatchiks monitored the faithful reproduction of Lenin's image, the artists assigned to make the pedestals were left on their own, resulting in a little-acknowledged tradition of abstract sculpture. Kosuth proposes an installation of monuments' bases without the monuments. Here he provides photos of some examples: a cubist-looking geometric base, a decorative formation that looks rather Islamic, a spare modernist column, a rough arte povera base made of farmhouse bricks, and more.
Other artists argue that if the statues are to be removed, they should be relocated but not destroyed. The New York-based team Scherer & Ouporov calls for a ceremonial mourning period and burial of the monuments. Their fantastic photocopy collage shows the huge Lenins and Stalins wheeling through Moscow in a motorcade, surrounded by cheering crowds. Siberian Vladimir Nekrasov suggests that "all unwanted monuments should be spaced evenly in a straight line running from the former Stalingrad ... on out into the Gulf of Finland, expelling Communism back to the West, from whence it came." Aidan Salachov's delicate watercolor painting on paper shows a group of sad-looking statues buried on a beach from the neck down, gazing out to sea.
One of the most provocative solutions comes from American artist Mark Tansey. His imposing and rather disturbing photocopy collage Colossi depicts a monumental junkyard of historic figures. Tansey's displaced heroes include not only Soviet figures but also remnants from the icons of world history: the Egyptian Sphinx, Greek and Roman relics, and, bringing his idea home, George Washington's face, shorn from Mt. Rushmore. "The proposal suggests a ziggurat of rubble," writes Tansey. "A monument that, by definition, could never be torn down.