The Underground Russian Artists Who Evaded the KGB
The Fly jewellery was a project first designed by Ilya Kabakov in 1992 and was originally conceived as a present for his wife Emilia, but it remained unrealised until when Elisabetta Cipriani proposed the artist to finally bring it to life in 2010.
The fly, one of Kabakov’s best known and recurring motifs, encapsulates a dual meaning. On the one hand, it is a metaphor for the smallness and insignificance of the individual against the omnipotence and repression of the Soviet Government. On the other hand, it represents the freedom of the soul, escaped from the earthly bonds of existence. The fly travels everywhere unnoticed, from the most ordinary and humble place to the most elevated and sacred one without distinguishing between them. This concept draws a clear parallelism to the figure of exiled, those who wander without a fixed destination; the fly is a messenger, a symbol of a free being who is everywhere, sees everything and appertains nowhere.
‘The fly is intended as an instrument for the ironic cutting down and translation of all elevated values into rubbish and, at the same time, as an angel which descends from heaven into our sinful world. It is impossible to make a firm choice between the two readings – all we can do is pass constantly from one reading to the other, like a fly.’
Boris Groys about Ilya Kabakov
The jewellery is forged in an Art Nouveau style featuring different green tonalities and applying the enamel technique that hints to the Pre-Revolutionary Russian aesthetics and therefore conveys a strong reference to the origins of the artists.
Signature: Signed and numbered
Manufacturer: The Artist for Elisabetta Cipriani ( jeweller Bagues / Masriera Barcelona)
Husband and wife Ilya and Emilia Kabokov have developed an international reputation for creating deeply evocative works that reflect on the socioeconomics of the late Soviet Union. Their projects entail multiple stages of planning, often accompanied by a host of preparatory diagrams and sketches, as with The Red Wagon (1991), a large-scale experiential installation meant to reflect the closed-off, circular, and frustrating nature of the Russian government. “[The viewer] is to fail in the effort to reach the heaven, then live through period of frustrating and fruitless anticipation—only to find himself standing in heaps of rubbish and junk at the end of the road,” they have said about the work. The pair’s practice together has continually explored how people relate to oppression, isolation, and other forms of adversity, and has been compared to that of constructivist artists El Lissitzky and Alexander Rodchenko, who each used their art to reflect upon Soviet politics and culture.
Russian, 1933 and 1945, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, based in Long Island, New York