99-034 (Ilya Kabakov)
Distributed October 15, 1999
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Glenn Hare

Sculptural installation has Northeast première at Bell Gallery

The Boat of My Life, a 58-foot handcrafted wooden boat by Russian-born artist Ilya Kabakov, will have its Northeast première at the David Winton Bell Gallery in the List Art Center beginning Nov. 13, 1999. The sculptural installation will be on display through Dec. 31.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Boat of My Life, a sculptural installation by Ilya Kabakov, a Russian-born artist now living in the United States, will have its Northeast première at the David Winton Bell Gallery in the List Art Center at Brown University beginning Saturday, Nov. 13. The installation is a 58-foot handcrafted wooden boat that serves as metaphor for Kabakov’s life.

The boat has stairways at each end that viewers use to climb onto the deck. Onboard are 25 large cardboard boxes – the ship’s “cargo” – arranged in complete disarray. Each box contains objects such as clothes, children’s toys and photos as well as household items and other memorabilia.

Editors: Digital photographs of “ The Boat of My Life” are available from the Brown University News Service. Call (401) 863-2476 for more information.

“Amassed, the boxes recall the episodes from Kabakov’s life in Russia – from his childhood and family flight from the Nazis to his adult life under a repressive Communist government – to his emigration first to Western Europe in the late 1980s and then to the United States in the early 1990s,” said Vesela Sretenovic, curator of the exhibition.

The Boat of My Life will be on display through Friday, Dec. 31, and is free to the public.

Ilya Kabakov

Born in the Ukraine in 1933, Kabakov was trained as a graphic artist. During the 1950s, while earning a living as a book illustrator, he was also experimenting with several forms of abstract art, said Sretenovic.

After moving to Moscow, Kabakov became one of the major figures in the city’s underground community of dissident artists and intellectuals known as the circle of conceptualists. During the late ’60s and ’70s, this group produced a wide range of art, from poetry to visual imagery and film that represented a critical commentary on the official Soviet government and its oppressive policies, said Sretenovic.

By the late 1980s Kabakov’s art had been exhibited throughout Europe, including shows in Germany, Switzerland and Spain. He was also featured in several exhibitions in the United States. With artwork displayed at the Venice Biennale and Documenta in Kassel, Germany, in 1992 and the Whitney Biennial in 1997, his art has received critical attention throughout the world.

“In general,” said Sretenovic, “Kavabov’s artwork deals with his Russian experience and with the life of ordinary people living under the communist regime. His large installations are complex constructions in which different objects, images and texts are combined to recreate environments such as communal apartments, mental hospitals or depressing work places and classrooms. These physical environments, which the artists calls ‘total installations,’ stand as metaphors for a dissatisfying and often absurd way of life under the brain-washing mechanisms of Soviet mass culture.”

Panel Discussion

In conjunction with the opening of the installation, a panel discussion will take place Friday, Nov. 12, beginning at 6 p.m. at the List Art Center Auditorium. The discussion will feature Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, the artist and his wife; Sergei Khrushchev, a senior research fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies and son of the late Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev; and Amei Wallach, an art historian, critic and author of the artist monograph Ilya Kabakov: The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away, published by Abrams in 1996.

The speakers will talk about their own views of life and art in the former Soviet Union from their personal experience: The Kabakovs as art decedents, Khrushchev as an heir of the official communist regime, and Wallach as foreign art critic who traveled to Russia extensively during the early years of Glasnost and Perestroika and became well acquainted with the artist and contemporary Russian art of that time.

An exhibition reception will immediately follow the presentation at the Bell Gallery. Both events are free and open to the public.

Located at 64 College St., the Bell Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.