Ilya (b. 1933, Dnepropetrovsk, Soviet Union) and Emilia (b. 1945, Dnepropetrovsk, Soviet Union) base their collaborative works on the intersection of quotidian and conceptual elements. Ilya previously worked as a children’s book illustrator, and was part of a group of Russian artists in Moscow working outside the Soviet system. Emilia was trained in Spanish literature and music, and worked in New York as an art dealer and curator beginning in the 1970s. Their background in Soviet society informs their work, and their work has been collaborative since they were married in 1992. They live and work on Long Island.

Throughout his forty-year plus career, Kabakov has produced a wide range of paintings, drawings, installations, and theoretical texts. By using fictional biographies, many inspired by his own experiences, Kabakov has attempted to explain the birth and death of the Soviet Union, which he claims to be the first modern society to disappear. In the Soviet Union, Kabakov discovers elements common to every modern society, and in doing so he examines the rift between capitalism and communism. Rather than depict the Soviet Union as a failed Socialist project defeated by Western economics, Kabakov describes it as one utopian project among many, capitalism included. By reexamining historical narratives and perspectives, Kabakov delivers a message that every project, whether public or private, important or trivial, has the potential to fail due to the potentially authoritarian will to power.

This sculpture is intended to be erected in a “sculpture park” like those usually located near a museum, where similar objects are located at a short distance from one another among the trees.  This sculpture is 6 ¼ feet in height, 24 ½ feet in length and 2 ½ feet wide. The Arch of Life includes five sculptures that represent the different stages of human existence (beginning from the bottom):  a human head being born from an egg; a frightened person on all fours wearing a threatening mask of a lion; a person carrying on his back a crate with a light inside (a lamp burns constantly inside the crate which has semi-transparent sides); a person crawling over a fence and stuck forever in this state (the image of an immigrant who finds himself ‘neither here nor there’); and finally, a tired person, lying such a pose that he is carrying a horrible weight on his back and he is unable to stand up or even to change his position. 

Installation of works by Kabakov and Remec is made possible by the generous support of Roberta Denning, Carole Guest Foundation, Steve Klinsky, Sacha Lainovic, Laura Lemle, Scott Lindsay, Malcolm Price, Cliff Robbins, Hartley Rogers, Jeff Rosen, Charlie Thurston and Bob Toll.  

[powr-photo-gallery label="ilya and emilia kabakov"]