World-renowned Soviet artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov have lived quietly in Mattituck for years, but this week, their private lives have become much more public. A documentary on their collaborations, directed by their fellow Mattituck resident, art critic Amei Wallach, opened at Film Forum in Greenwich Village Wednesday night.
The film, titled “Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here,” follows the couple on a 2008 trip to Moscow (where their work was once banned) for a series of installations on Russian history and, in the process, sheds light on the interplay of their personalities at work.
Nicholas Rapold of The New York Times said yesterday the film presents the Kabakovs as collaborators: “Her problem-solving allows him to putter and create, free to worry fruitfully about his artistic preoccupations.”
“Ms. Wallach has fashioned a multifaceted, informative portrait conveying the emotional urgency of the Kabakovs’ work,” he added.
Mr. Kabakov was born in the Ukraine in 1933 “at a time when starvation was rampant there under the official policy of collectivization,” according to Ms. Wallach’s website for the film. He worked through the 1960s, ’70s, and early ’80s as an official artist of the state, illustrating children’s books, but was close to an upwelling of “unofficial” artists that began in the 1960s, known as the Moscow Conceptualists.
Ms. Wallach describes his work: “First he made drawings that explored the disconnect between bureaucratic absurdity and everyday reality. These became paintings, which turned the language of Soviet placards and proclamations into deadpan rows of columns or empty voids on which words and images made nonsense of one another.”
Though the couple had known each other since childhood, they weren’t married until they both were established in New York in 1992, and they’ve since traveled the world together, at work on installations that, in Ms. Wallach’s words, trace “a universal trajectory of failed dreams, collapsed civilizations, and the unquenchable lure of illusion in every society.”
“Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here” will be showing at the Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, through Nov. 26. Tickets are available online here.
The trailer for the film is below: