Leonid Sokov

11 October 1941, Mikhalevo Village, Kalinin Oblast

Sokov was born in a village. His father, a dairy plant director, was killed in the war. As a child, he learned how to make wooden toys. Brought to Moscow as a youth, he continued to enjoy sculptural handicrafts. He chose sculpture as his field at the Moscow Middle Art School, a school for gifted children). Between 1964 and 1969, he studied at the Stroganov Moscow Higher Industrial Art School. After graduation, he worked an animalist sculptor, but soon after gave up a career accepting official commissions. Between 1966 and 1969 he shared a studio with his colleague and friend Alexander Kosolapov. In 1976 for the Moscow unofficial festival of  “apartment exhibitions,” he organized a show of Pop Art and Conceptualists in his studio in Moscow, where he also showed his first Pop Art works. Sokov emigrated from the USSR in 1979, and has been living in New York since 1980.  His first one-man show was at the Storefront Gallery in 1983. In 1986 he took part in the milestone exhibition Sots Art, at the New Museum, in New York, curated by Margarita Tupitsyna. Sokov’s first retrospective in Moscow took place in the summer of 2012 at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.

He is a vivid representative of Sots Art. In the early 1970s, he became captivated by American Pop Art and then, under the influence of Komar and Melamid, created a series of sociopolitical sculptural objects. His recognizable style began to form in Moscow, with an intentionally rough finish, resembling naïve amateur work, but at the same time very precise and expressive. He has not limited himself to sculpture, working in drawing, collage, painting, and installations.  Like most Sots Artists, Sokov manipulates the canons of ideological production and of contemporary myths. He loves to create his own fantastical instruments and signs of power, nationally colored religious objects, while using “low languages,” folk story plots, swear words, and jokes. Once outside the USSR, Sokov offered his version of the “dialogue” forms of Sots Art, built on the juxtaposition of the USSR and the West and the paradox of discovering similarities between the two polar worlds. This led to creation of “Stalin and Monroe” and “Lenin and Giacometti.” One of the directions of his art is related to the genre of moving objects: ironic monuments of wood with electrical mechanisms or interactive mechanical play objects, simulating the style of folk handicrafts, for example, “Andropov’s Ears.”