Vitaly Komar
(b. 1943, Moscow; lives and works in New York)

The Swish of Sand.

Polyptych, C-print on Dibond. Overall dimensions 40×240 cm
Courtesy of the artist

The Swish of Sand continues Komar’s long-term exploration of the themes of fate and ritual. Responding to the focus of the exhibition, the project explores the inescapable dramatic ending of every life and the transformation of living matter into dust, which nevertheless always precedes a new life in a new form. Having made a will specifying that he be buried with a radio transmitter and an hourglass, Komar has extended his creative activity beyond his own existence, inserting himself into the baroque tradition of vanitas and reminding the viewer that in this world we are all transit passengers.

The subject of life and death appeared in the work of Komar & Melamid at different stages of their collaborative career. Shortly after they emigrated to Israel in 1977, the duo organized a subversive performance, in which they placed an aluminum, pyramid-shaped structure with a five-pointed star on top of Mount Zion. Behind this “temple” they burnt their suitcases, thus symbolically sacrificing to the fire their ties with the motherland. After moving to the United States in 1978, Komar & Melamid established a company that traded in human souls. The end result was an auction, which included the sale of the soul of Andy Warhol for 30 rubles. Another symbol connected to the afterlife that recurs in their work is Lenin’s Mausoleum. In 1993, during the wave of the de-Sovietization of the Russian state, the artists devised a project for a news ticker to be added to the mausoleum as an attempt to revive the aging monument in the new, post-Soviet world.