By the end of the 1960s, Socialist Realism in the Soviet Union had produced academic pictures of heroes and heroines of the revolution, pictures of work, and of political meetings. Certain artists began to make use of these clichéd images of nationalism and power, by parodying them and by creating ironic contrasts. These “unofficial” artists – the antithesis of the “official” artists sponsored by the State, were obviously not allowed to show their works in the Soviet Union. During the 1970s many of them were permitted to emigrate to the West. Ilya Kabakov was one such émigré, albeit later on. He left the USSR in 1987 and currently divides his time between New York, Paris, and Moscow.

Albums:  Editions of 10 Characters

One of Ilya Kabakov’s most famous and influential albums from the 10 Characters series, which he produced in the early 1970s as an unofficial artist working in Moscow.  This edition was issued in 1994-1996.

About the 10 Characters Albums

Kabakov’s major output during the 1970s consisted of albums like this one:  collections of drawings and text assembled in “books” of 30 to 100 pages each and performed for friends and fellow artists at Kabakov’s famous Sretensky Boulevard attic studio.  The 10 Characters albums were the first of this genre Kabakov created and remain the most influential on his later work and on Russian contemporary art in general.  This series of albums can be seen as a turning point for Kabakov. The ten albums tell ten fables: they suggest ten positions from which Homo Sovieticus can react to his world, ten psychological attitudes, ten perspectives on emptiness, ten parodies of the aesthetic traditions through which Kabakov evolved his vocabulary, ten aspects of Kabakov’s personality.

The 10 Characters albums have been exhibited individually and collectively in museums around the world; the originals are in the collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. A two-volume catalog was printed in 1995 to accompany exhibitions in the contemporary art museums of Helsinki and Oslo.

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