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Stalin with Hitler's Remains from the series Anarchistic Synthesism

© Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, NY.

Stalin with Hitler's Remains from the series Anarchistic Synthesism

Artist: Vitaly Komar (Born in Moscow, Russia (formerly the USSR), 1943)
Artist: Alexander Melamid (Born in Moscow, Russia (formerly the USSR), 1945)
Culture: Russian; American
Date: 1985–1986
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
84 1/4 x 60 1/4 inches (214 x 153 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Museum purchase
Label Text:Stalin with Hitler’s Remains is divided into two panels: a figurative narrative panel, underneath which is hinged a white monochrome panel with the title of the work in the center. In the top panel, Komar and Melamid represented Stalin in the neoclassical style of Socialist Realism, which both Stalin and Hitler mandated in the early 1930s. Stalin stands at the foot of the shrouded body of Hitler in a vaulted chamber under a shaft of light from a clerestory window that illuminates his finger pointing at Hitler’s remains. The accusatory gesture recalls Hitler’s betrayal of the 1939 German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, which Hitler broke in 1941 when Germany attacked the Soviet Union.

While this painting belongs to the Anarchistic Synthesism series of the mid-1980s, it follows Komar and Melamid’s Nostalgic Socialist Realism series in which the artists often represented Stalin as a nostalgic figure. In the Anarchistic Synthesism series, Komar and Melamid turned their attention to the pluralism of Western art during the 1980s. Staging their own aesthetic anarchism in Stalin with Hitler’s Remains, they combine a white monochrome painting, perhaps in homage to the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White (1918), together with a Socialist realist, narrative, figural representation. The title of the series also recalls the “synthesis anarchism” advocated by the French anarchist Sébastien Faure, who championed unity among diverse anarchist movements throughout Europe and the Soviet Union in the 1920s. But Komar and Melamid specifically conjure the Russian anarchist Volin (a.k.a. Vsevolod Mikhailovich Eikhenbaum), who authored “Anarchist Synthesis,” an essay for Encyclopedie Anarchiste, edited by Faure in Paris. KS

Object number: 1992.8.1