Toward a Soviet Poor Art: Ilya Kabakov’s Use of Trash

  • Ann Komaromi


This article examines the evolution of Soviet non-conformist artist Ilya Kabakov’s work to consider questions of influence and reception from within the U.S.S.R as well as in Europe and beyond. Komaromi compares Kabakov’s use of poor-quality objects (plokhie veshchi) and trash (musor) with the practices of Italian artists associated with Arte Povera to determine in what sense Kabakov produces a Soviet poor art. She further juxtaposes his approach to trash with the techniques of Robert Rauschenberg’s combines. While Rauschenberg’s combines present the resistant materiality of discrete objects, Kabakov’s trash ultimately invites consideration of the material context according to what Komaromi calls a syntax of reception. Audience responses to Kabakov’s works, including his famous installations with trash, speak to western and post-Soviet perceptions of Soviet and Russian identity, with implications also for how those audiences understand themselves.


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How to Cite
Komaromi, A. (2020). Toward a Soviet Poor Art: Ilya Kabakov’s Use of Trash. Between, 10(19), 189-222.