THE CRITICS SPEAK

A NOTE FROM
THE DIRECTOR

Valentin Popov

Popov is a postmodernist, thriving on the vast panorama of art history and its proud pageant of myriad movements and schools. Popov has leveraged the liberty inherent in this artistic approach
by blending imagery derived from disparate sources in a seamless fusion. His artistic ability is such that he is able to mesh visual elements that would ordinarily clash and collide, in a sort of reverse osmosis.

AN ICONIC
WORLD VIEW

Amy Chung
February 11, 2020

Although I stopped reading comic books some time ago, I rediscovered my childhood heroes in Valentin’s brilliant Icons. They give me joy and remind me of an innocent time when I was learning to become a person of substance. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman are all appropriately and beautifully enshrined in golden or silver frames, bejeweled, and befitting their place in our culture. Some say that these secular cartoon heroes supplant our religious icons. This may be overstating the case, but they teach us to seek the truth, to strive, and reinforce our morality. They remind us to choose right over wrong.

CONCEPTUAL COLLABORATION
Across Centuries, Cultures, and Distances

ROBERT FLYNN JOHNSON
Curator Emeritus
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts
Fine Arts Museums
of San Francisco

Valentin Popov’s evolution as an artist is an amalgamation of his stringent fine art training in the Ukraine and his absorption of modern popular culture in the United States, where he has resided as a citizen for the past twenty years.

In his mature work, Popov has always been obsessed with the notion of the superhero both as savior but at times also sacrificial victim leading to sainthood. There is humor and irony in his work, but beneath that seeming superficiality is a seriousness of purpose. We live in an uncertain world that yearns for heroes to rescue us from the terrors that surround us on
a daily basis, whether it presents itself as crime, poverty, or a deadly virus.

ROMANTIC CYNICISM

Rick Gilbert

Formulated during the years he lived in the U.S.S.R., Popov’s pet theory of “Romantic Cynicism” is a dualist, manichaean philosophy blending the romantic ideals of an eternally optimistic socialist utopia which was the Soviet Union with a personal sense of cynicism about life’s drearier realities. “In the former U.S.S.R.,” Valentin explains, “everyone was supposed to love one another and help one another achieve the common good, by each taking according to his needs and giving according to his abilities.” Popov’s large-scale painting First the Apple...Then Us, with its portrait-of-the-artist-as-worm emerging from a
plump, ripe, red apple set in the foreground of a swampy prehistoric landscape, embodies the philosophy of Romantic Cynicism in its linkage of innocence and corruption, deceptive appearances, and twilight on the flimsy edifice of human “big ideas,” hopes, and aspirations.

«NO SNOWFLAKE IN AN AVALANCHE FEELS RESPONSIBLE»
Voltaire

ROBERT FLYNN JOHNSON
Curator Emeritus
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts
Fine Arts Museums
of San Francisco

On the night of October 15-16, 1987, a freak extratropical cyclone with hurricane force winds descended on the British Isles with devastating force. Because it came through early in the morning hours, there was thankfully few lives lost. However, the damage it inflicted to the landscape was extensive felling an estimated fifteen million trees throughout the U. K.

PARADOXES OF AN AVALANCHE

"Have you ever heard an avalanche rumble in the mountains? Just after an avalanche rocks and the absolute Silence comes. You do not understand where you are - it is a hundred percent silence. It's just Very Quiet..." © Haruki Murakami, "Sheep Hunting"

ICONIC IRONY

Andrei Ustinov

When it comes to Valentin Popov’s Ironic Iconsa viewer is bound to start with basic inquiries, as if asking Mom and Dad simple questions like “what? how? why?”

“What”is a rather trivial subject—superheroes from American comic books. It is an unconventional angle of Popov’s vision that transforms them into the icons—wooden panels which are painted with primary dyes mixed with an egg white, yet gilded with gold leaf and sometimes precious stones to convey the sappiness of their pretentious solemnity. He further drowns his protagonists in an absurd pomposity with all the weight of heavy gilded casings, known as oklads. This is how he equalizes super heroes and saints.

IRONIC ICONS

Valentin Popov

Arriving in this country as a young artist, I was struck by the constant verbal references to Christianity by ministers, politicians, and commentators, just like there is today, but a near complete absence of visual imagery in the daily life of average Americans. What also struck me here, however, was the predominance and popularity of superheroes through movies, television, books, and comics.

IRONIC ICONS:
The Art of
Valentin Popov

Dr. Claudia Bohn-Spector
Chief Curator
Long Beach Museum
of Art

Ukrainian-born artist Valentin Popov leans heavily on irony, satire, humor, and comedy to convey his artistic message. Born the son of one of Kiev’s most preeminent artists, he was formally trained at the Academy of Fine Art of Ukraine and at the Kiev State School of Art. An all-around talent equally adept at printmaking, drawing, painting, collage, sculpture and installation, Popov frequently mixes media and genres, blending academic art with tongue-in-cheek commentary rooted in popular culture.

IDEA MUSEUM
OF COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS

California's Gold:
Valentin Popov
Online at ideamuseum
By Lorette C. Luzajic

Valentin Popov comes across as a warm, bright man with a generous cheerfulness and zest for life. In his art, we see a playfulness mixed with technical mastery. While many experts are always recommending that artists "focus" to find their style, some artists find that focusing on a style or medium is limiting.

MOCKERY SQUARED:
The Paradoxical Parody of Valentin Popov's Ironic Icons

Rick Gilbert

Contemporary cultural commentators have observed that, in the present era, the museum has replaced the church and "art is the new religion." In the example of the artwork before us, the psychological framework of religiosity itself is examined through the "ironic" invocation of comic book superheroes as replacements for the old gods. These dubious dramatis personae have been deified and enshrined as the shallow symbols of humanity's desires, fears, hopes and anxieties in the modern age.

LONG BEACH MUSEUM
OF ART TO OPEN NEW EXHIBITION IRONIC ICONS:
THE ART OF
VALENTIN POPOV

Popov notes, “it was in 1993 that I first began to meld my Ukrainian past, filled with the memories of icons, with the exciting, yet unnerving sea of popular culture I was now swimming in here in America. I focused on the image of Batman over all other superheroes.