Akron Art Museum

Akron, OH




Komar & Melamid: the People's Choice

On view September 5 through November 15, Komar & Melamid: the People's Choice indudes Akron's Most Wanted, America's Most Wanted and America's Most Unwanted, and public opinion paintings from thirteen other countries ard the Internet.

Gleaned from ideas and opinions generated at a town hall meeting this past May at the Akron-Summit County Public Library. Akron's Most Wanted reflects public attitudes, trends and tastes in the city of Akron. The painting is 7 ft. x 11 ft. and is highlighted by the towering downtown YMCA building, references to the rubber industry and several amusing oddities sllch as flying dogs. Reflecting Akron's recent urban revitalization and its history ot' industrial and economic change, the painting's theme is centered an transformation.

Russian emigres Vitaly Konar, born 1943, and Alexander Melamid, born 1945, began their careers overturning the conventions of official Soviet art and challenging authorities in their native country of Russia. During the early 1970s, they took on state-approved Socialist Realism -- a type of pro-Soviet propaganda art -- as a target, establishing themselves as prominent artist-dissidents in the process. They later immigrated to Israel and in 1978 moved to New York where they now live as U.S. citizens.

In 1993, Komar & Melamid commissioned a polling firm, Marttila & Kiley, to conduct the first survey of the American public's artistic taste to determine what they did and did not want in a painting. Culled from data obtained in the survey, America's Most Wanted and America 's Most Unwanted, are of classic proportion ("the size of a dishwasher," which was the preferred choice according to the poll) and a direct manifestation of Komar and Melamid's belief that "art... belongs to the people." The size and type of individual elements and the color used for each appear in proportion to their popularity. For example, 44 percent of those surveyed named blue as their favorite color, subsequently 40 percent of America's Most Wanted's surface is water and sky, which is mostly blue. With the exception of Akron 's Most Wanted, all of the paintings in the exhibition have been created based on the results of tabulated information taken from the nation-wide surveys.

Though the paintings represent the preferences of people from countries around the world, the results are strikingly similar, Perhaps these results indicate that people around the world are really more similar than we think; maybe they suggest that the proliferation of international media and the Internet are truly shaping the world into a "global village." Maybe these polls reveal less about what people want and more about what they already know as art. There are no correct answers, only the humorous and revealing resuits. As Komar and Melamid say, "Let the people judge."

A free, illustrated brochure accompanies Komar and Melamid: The People's Choice. A color catalogue reproducing works in the exhibition as well as the results of the American poll entitled, Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid's Scientific Guide to Art, will also be available for purchase at the museum.

Komar & Melamid: The People's Choice is a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York, and produced in cooperation with the Komar & Melamid Studio. ICI is a non-profit traveling exhibition service specializing in contemporary art. The exhibition, tour, and accompanying free brochure have been made possible, in part, by a grant from the Foundation-To-Life, Inc. The presentation in Akron is made possible with support from the Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Foundation, Fred and Laura Bidwell and the Martin and Susan Spector Charitable Gift Fund.

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