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Leonid Sokov

Threatening Finger, Russia, 1974

Oil on copper and electric motor 7.5X21X31.5 cm

Courtesy of the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey The Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union Photograph by Jack Abraham

When classifying Russian art of the 1970s-90s, Leonid Sokov is usually included in the socialist art section, in his works Sokov uses Soviet symbols and formal techniques, but for him they are always the environment, the back drop, never the main theme. They are objects of ridicule and/or destruction.

The Soviet for Sokov is just a fertile upper layer, while the main roots of his creative work extend deeper His works are often characterized by a rough-hewn, handmade aesthetic, a reference to both folk traditions and the sloppiness of Soviet industrial production. Sokov often incorporates the kind of commonplace imagery seen in Pop Art, conjoining contemporary references with motifs drawn from the wood carvings of Russian village craftsmen. In the 1970s, Sokov aligned himself with the emerging Sots Art movement, led by Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. Sots Art used the state-prescribed style of Socialist Realism as an object of investigation and critique, undermining its transcendent seriousness with irony and absurdity. In a similar vein, Sokov sought to reveal the uncanny similarities between folkloric and Soviet patterns of mythmaking, creating sculptural compositions that present a new type of folklore. Sokov termed these works ‘political skazki’, or ‘fairytales’.