Blindman’s Buff

Hello readers. Sorry for my recent lack of posts; I should have mentioned that I was taking a break from blogging. Today, I will continue off my last post, where I said I would do some analyzing of an artwork. So here’s the artwork:

Blindman’s Buff by Vitaly Komar

This is a oil canvas painting by Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, both Russian artists. Komar and Melamid are an artistic team who created collaborative artworks, working first in Moscow in the late 1960s through the early 1970s. They emerged as dissident artists on the international stage in the 1970s. The artistic duo first exhibited work in the United States in 1975, a few years before their permanent emigration. They worked together as a team until 2003, and both artists have produced a body of work independently since that time.

In 1972 Komar and Melamid launched a new movement they called Sots Art. Drawing on ideas from Pop Art in the United States, which itself borrowed from the everyday to comment on society, the Sots Art movement appropriated the visual language of Socialist Realism and put it to new use through ironic visual twists. (Socialist Realism is the form of art that had to conform to what the Soviet government wanted. Thus, artists were restricted in what they wanted to produce.) Although the two artists were trained as painters, they also used photography, text, performance, and found objects in their works. They continued to have their art censored given the fact that they constantly rebelled against Socialist Realism. However, they managed to smuggle some of their artwork out of the USSR.

That was some background information. Now on the artwork itself. Now what do we see? We see a girl or a woman being blindfolded. She is playing the typical game of Blind Man’s Buff with a man, who is kneeling down trying to hide from the girl. The room is mostly red, and on a wall is a picture of Stalin himself. We also see a table, with a hat and a pot on top of it.

Komar and Melamid

Obviously, the color red is symbolic of the Socialist Communist system. We also know, from the background information, that Komar and Melamid were against Socialist Realism. So perhaps a theme of this painting is this negative attitude towards the USSR government. For instance, the man kneeling seems a lot like a Russian soldier, maybe symbolic of the Russian government itself. In a sense, this man is almost taunting the girl, who seems like a victim rather than a girl just playing a game. Perhaps the girl is representative of the common Russian who is in a sense victim of the USSR government. She cannot see what the Russian soldier is doing- maybe showing that the common Russian was not aware of the corrupt deeds the government had done. She, and symbolically the common Russian, cannot see the light coming in from the window, symbolic of truth, of what the government was really doing, perhaps “blinded” by the Soviet propaganda. Most importantly, Stalin’s portrait shows that the man who is watching over all of this is Stalin himself- almost like a god, with an omnipresent presence. Stalin is watching over and conducting the blinding of the common Russian.

However, this artwork is open to interpretation. There could be other themes involved, such as the artistic style. Here, Komar mimicked the art of Socialist Realism, trying to give the ironic tone of mocking Socialist Realism by using Socialist Realism art. One sees that this is Socialist Realism art because it is very naturalistic, depicts ordinary people, and figures are like those of Socialist Realist art.

We also see influence from the Baroque artist Vermeer. Many of Vermeer’s paintings feature a relationship between a young woman and a man, focusing on a suspended moment that implies an incomplete narrative. Vermeer often placed his subjects in interior spaces that were lit from a window. In addition, the focus on details in Blindman’s Buff, such as the textures of the floor, the curtain, and the clothing, is reminiscent of Vermeer’s paintings.

Although in this post I focused on Socialist Realism’s involvement in this painting, it may have no relationship whatsoever. Again, it is open to interpretation. Maybe the soldier is not taunting the girl, but perhaps protecting her. Maybe the artwork was meant to show a playful relationship between the girl and the man. Who knows? And this is one beauty of art analysis: there is never one right answer.

In my next post, I will talk about how sometimes our body seems to be another living organism.