Can a Picasso Cure You?
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
By CHARLES McGRATH
The Russian-born artist Alexander Melamid is by nature an ironist, so adept at serving as his own straight man that it’s hard to tell how seriously he means to be taken. He may not know himself.
Mr. Melamid and Vitaly Komar, a fellow Russian émigré, were for years a highly visible Conceptual art duo in New York. They were known for monumental paintings, including one of Stalin killing himself in a New Jersey motel, in the style of Socialist Realism, and for teaching elephants in Thailand how to paint like Abstract Expressionists.
Their most famous project was probably “The People’s Choice,” in which they polled people about their preferences in art and determined that what everyone really wanted to look at was a landscape with lots of blue, some animals and a historical figure or two. A painting they did according to this recipe — the ideal painting for Americans, they maintained — featured George Washington and some present-day picnickers by a bucolic lake with a hippo in the background.