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Sunday Reading: Agent In Love
Sunday Reading: Agent In Love

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Video: Taurus love reading, Loving a secrete agent. 10/15-22 2022, December

It should have been a dry document. Just a list of works, titles, when what has been done, where is it,”writes Viktor Pivovarov in the“Not necessary preface”of his book, which is composed of frank and fascinating notes about art and personal life, about events and contemporaries. The “agent in love” does not tolerate strict accompanying data for pictures or boring analytical passages: his autobiography is full of memories, reflections and a sincere interest in the “secret life” of the human soul.

The book, published by Garage Museum in collaboration with Artguide Editions, takes you to the second half of the last century and reveals the figure of Pivovarov in a new way - not only as an important Moscow conceptualist and key (along with Ilya Kabakov and Andrei Monastyrsky) representative of Russian post-war unofficial art, but also as a father, husband, friend and lover, an extraordinary personality and a tireless explorer of life.



At the end of 1967, Ilya Kabakov introduced me to David Kogan, whom he so vividly described in his book "The 70s". Kogan builds workshops for artists in attics and extracts basements from non-residential stock.

I have no money for construction, and Kogan performs his next miracle - he knocks out a basement for me in house number 13 on Bohdan Khmelnitsky Street. In the yard of the "Concentrates" store. This store used to have a buffet where you could get lunch from these same concentrates for a few kopecks. It was in this buffet in the fall of 1951 that my first conversation with Volodya Vasiliev took place, a conversation that turned my life upside down.

I walk in my basement. I touch the walls, I don't believe! My workshop! Two rooms, a kitchen, a walk-through room! I adapt it for myself and find, under the wallpaper, a walled wall with glass windows and a door, like on a country veranda.

Nobody has this! Now I will have a kitchen like a veranda!

The workshop is a hole!

Workshop of my soul!

For 20 years now, I have not had it, but I still dream about how I open the door covered with some kind of rags and enter my workshop. I distinctly remember every thing, every piece of paper, every creaky floorboard. I go into the depths, into the most mysterious, most intimate place, into my kitchen behind the glass wall. It's always evening here. I light a table lamp on top of an empty aquarium. From the side, you can put your hand into this aquarium and get a pack of tea, crackers, raisins. I turn on the stove, put the kettle on, sit down at the table covered with oilcloth, touch the dusty books on the shelf, put the record on the turntable, lie down on the sofa, I hope that at the Last Judgment he will be silent and will not give away my secrets, I listen to music …

I am constantly painting my childhood room. And never a workshop. Only in the album "Garden" there are several drawings. I can't draw her. Not because he is sentimental and it hurts me to remember.

There is simply something that cannot be portrayed. Or I don't know how.


Victor Pivovarov. "Eidetic Garden", 2010.


About paintings

Since 1972, the character of my paintings has changed. In those first, euphoric ones, there is a lot of everything - many figures, objects, various spatial holes and crevices.

Moving on, I clear the space of the picture, select, strain out the depicted objects. I also change the general tone. I change the ringing yellow, green, blue to silent gray-pink, gray-purple, white-blue tones. As a result of the selection, what remains in the picture is really the most necessary, the most important thing, what in the end will stay with me for life: a half-empty room, a window with a desert landscape, a wobbly table by the window, a sofa in a white cover. The theme of loneliness emerges more and more clearly.

"Metaphysical composition", 1972

I am not a philosopher, I am an artist - and I understand the word "metaphysics" as an artist. For me, this word means the presence of “other” in the picture.

It is impossible to portray the “other”, it does not look like it. One can only hint at it. A hint of “other” can be inside the picture, for example, in the form of abstract signs that do not agree with other objects in any way, or outside the picture, when the depicted figures or the picture as a whole seem to refer to the “other”, appear before it, hint at it presence.

This is how the figures of the saints on icons appear before the “other”, this is how the empty rooms of Edward Hopper or Vilém Hammershoy refer to the “other”.

Victor Pivovarov. "Metaphysical composition", 1972.

"Thinking at the Window 1", 1972

The theme of flight, weightlessness appears at this time among very many authors in various artistic genres, in painting, in literature, in cinema. In our narrow circle, these are Kabakov's Flying Komarov, Bulatov's Coming, and Steinberg's flying Suprematist elements.

It is surprising that as a penetrating theme, as a powerful discourse of the 70s, flight was seen and realized only many years later. In 1996, the exhibition "Flight, departure, disappearance" was held in Prague. Pasha and Milena came up with it. Milena, along with Katya Becker and Dorothy Binnert from Berlin, was her curator.

While living within the cultural-temporal stream, we did not realize this topic as a common one. This only confirms the organic nature of its appearance at the same time in a variety of artists. As Goethe said, "apples fall simultaneously in different orchards."

The painting "Thinking at the Window" is similar to my dreams of flying. Almost everyone has such dreams. I asked different people about this, everyone dreamed of flying, but the type of flight was different. I flew, or rather, did not fly, but walked through the air almost always indoors. In a room or a crowded hall. You run up and easily soar up to the ceiling. And you look at others from above and explain how easy and accessible it is to everyone. The bliss of this walking, sliding like ice skating, indescribable through the air.

"Composition with a red square", 1974

This picture begins my endless conversation with Malevich. For the first time here I have squares resembling Suprematist ones. Squares in three other paintings this year - in "Blue Composition", "Ladder" and "Middle Way".

Mine are distinguished from the Suprematist squares by a wavy edge and sharp corners. It seems you can grab them by these corners and pull them out of the picture. In the gaps between the squares one can see a landscape with the figure of a lonely person or part of the interior. A layered onion-like space appears. You pull off one layer, and then another, then a third, fourth.

Malevich understood his Suprematist compositions as an absolute metaphysical space of pure essences. I depict the same space with similar Suprematist squares floating in it, but I take the next step, as if I look behind these squares and find behind them all the same earthly reality with its everyday life and the evening sky outside the window.

We can say that, looking behind the Suprematist utopian construction, I find only the following illusion. And nothing more. The only reality is the reality of loneliness.


Victor Pivovarov. Premonition, 1977.

Three years, from 1972 to 1974, are very happy and very unhappy for me.

Life in Moscow, not in the one above, but in the one below, in our Moscow, is delightful! Poems, feasts, Eros fluttering under the ceilings, a cult of friendship. It seems that never in Russia since the days of Pushkin's pre-Decembrist youth has there been such hot, not clouded by pragmatism, friendly relations. Information, books, magazines are few. But they are experienced intensely. Any preface or note in a boring purely scientific collection becomes an event in the whole cultural Moscow. Each new picture of a member of a narrow "reference group" is a subject of discussion for a whole year. Poets read in the workshops. In mine: Kholin, Sapgir, Tsiferov and Driz, Georgy Ball, Satunovsky, supervanguardist Genrikh Khudyakov, incomparable young Limonov, Alena Basilova, Kira Sapgir, the beautiful Lena Shchapova.

Against this almost cloudless background, my family life looks like a contrast. Severe endless illness of Pasha. By the age of six, he is on the verge of life and death. Weakens and melts before our eyes. One hospital after another. By some miracle, he starts to crawl out, but he gets sick all the time. Pasha is also present in the group photo taken on the memorable day of the Izmailovo exhibition. He's sick here, as always. Ira is getting worse and worse every year. They wear her down, destroy her previously cheerful character and turn her into a hysterical bundle of nerves. The conflicts between us eventually end in divorce in 1974.

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