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5 / Cosmology and Belief

Forest as a Temple
Forest as a Temple
Artist / Origin Vitaly Komar (Russian, b. 1943)
Date 2007
Material Tempera and oil on canvas
Medium: Painting
Dimensions H: 72 in. (183 cm.), W: 36 in. (91.5 cm.)
Location Collection of artist
Credit Courtesy of the artist

expert perspective

Vitaly KomarArtist

Additional Resources

Komar, Vitaly, Dorte Asheton, and Andrew Weinstein. Vitaly Komar (Three-Day Weekend). New York: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, 2005.

Ratcliff, Carter. Komar & Melamid. New York: Abbeville Press, 1989.

Regina, Khidekel. It’s the Real Thing: Soviet & Post-Soviet Sots Art & American Pop Art. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.

“Vitaly Komar.” In Artists. The Ronald Feldman Gallery Web site. http://www.feldmangallery.com.

The Web site of Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid. http://www.komarandmelamid.org.

Forest as a Temple

» Vitaly Komar (Russian, b. 1943)

Vitaly Komar’s Forest as a Temple is an image of ecumenical spirituality couched in the essential mystery that is nature.

The tops of the tall trees on either side of Komar’s canvas curve toward the center, forming a canopy reminiscent of the high vaulted arches of a Gothic cathedral. In the open space between the trees, a slice of blue sky filters light as if stained glass. This, in turn, becomes the backdrop for a moon, a menorah, and a cross—emblems of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity respectively.

The work belongs to the artist’s New Symbolism series, which is a continuation of his Three-Day Weekend project begun in 2004. As Komar describes it, Three-Day Weekend attests to the potential for peaceful coexistence among people with differing conceptions of faith and spirituality. In his images, he seeks a visual language that can overcome the differences compounded by verbal dialogue. Thus, he brings together traditional symbols of specific institutionalized religions with basic geometric shapes occurring in nature and common to the art of diverse belief systems, namely the triangle, the circle, and the square. To these, he adds historical and autobiographical images. The name Three-Day Weekend is, in fact, inspired by Komar’s own past in Russia. He remembers a time when workers had off only on Sunday, the Christian holy day, and his Jewish grandfather’s joy when the weekend was extended to include Saturday, the Sabbath, or day of rest, in Judaism. Komar’s vision adds Friday, the holy day for Muslims, to the mix.

Three-Day Weekend and New Symbolism are, on the one hand, genuine attempts to uncover the essential sameness of spirituality by all its varied names, among which Komar includes science as well as religion. On the other, they are not without an ironic edge. Komar began his career working in collaboration with the artist Alex Melamid. Together, they founded what is now known as the Sots-Art movement, which used the Pop Art idiom to subvert Soviet propaganda and challenge official Socialist Realism style. Brought to his new solo projects, Komar’s penchant for irony emerges in more subtle ways through the juxtaposition of seemingly opposite and incompatible images and ideas.

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