Eric Bulatov is one of the most acclaimed contemporary Russian artists at this moment and is an active leader of Russian non-conformist art. Since the beginning of his artistic path, Bulatov was interested in the power of art as social commentary. Through his conceptual art, the artist investigates the politically charged language of the Soviet and post-Soviet period. He repeatedly uses text and image to explore and experiment with 'preposterous' combinations of landscapes, concepts, ideas, images, actions and things. These newly born, deeply ambivalent combinations achieve a powerful grotesque effect. In a particular context of a subtle spatial play, these works of art reflect the artist's understanding of social relations. Bulatov can be placed alongside Ilya Kabakov, Andrei Monastyrski, Irina Nakhova, Komar and Melamid, among others, as one of the founders of the school of Moscow Conceptualism.
Bulatov was born on September 5, 1933, in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), Russia and raised in Moscow. He studied painting at the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow and during this period realised that the official doctrine of social realism cannot express his artistic and social views. Soon, after graduating in 1958, Bulatov became a highly successful children's book illustrator together with a friend and collaborator Oleg Vasiliev. In the 1960s the artist began to gradually develop his original post avant-garde style and experiment with diverse modern approaches to art, eventually becoming a leading underground artist. He was deeply inspired by two Russian avant-garde artists Vladimir Favorsky and Robert Falk.
Bulatov created his distinct style which primarily manifests itself in his 1970s paintings, where gigantic Soviet emblems or propagandistic, poster slogans are mixed with naturalistic landscapes. Reminiscent of ideological placards but deprived of its hostile clichés regarding space and message, these artworks contained more poetic, ambiguous metaphors and filled with new rich meaning. When the question of affiliation with any particular style arises, it is challenging to categorise Bulatov's art. The artist himself denies that his works have something to do with Soviet Pop art style. He argues that the "sots" art is based on irony, but his works are never ironic. The artist emphasised that there is a fundamental difference between his art and "sots" art. His works are driven to expose a possibility to step outside the boundary between the 'real' world, full of ideologies and biases. The world that is presented to us through official doctrines and politics and which is transmitted through newspapers and television is not the 'objective' world. Bulatov's works show that ideological space of our reality has its limit and through art, it is possible to get beyond the boundaries. He has achieved a completely independent, unique form of artistic expression. An interplay of contrasting language and images, abstraction and illusion, of real and hypothetical. It is important to see the spatial conflict in Bulatov's works. For instance, how the flatness, the surface of words interacts with the space around it, what are their relationship. According to the artist, this is the key to understanding his works.
Bulatov lived most of his life in Russia but moved to New York in 1989 and then relocated to Paris in 1992. Bulatov's artworks were exhibited worldwide including the Guggenheim Museums in New York (2005), the Guggenheim in Bilbao (2006), Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (2003), as well as various museums and galleries in Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, the UK, Netherlands, Norway, Monaco, and South Korea. The artist participated in almost every significant exhibition of the 20th century Russian Art. Concerning his homeland, the first show of his graphic works in Russia was held in Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow in 2003, and in 2006 there was his first retrospective exhibition in Russia, in the Tretyakov Gallery as well. Bulatov became an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Arts in 2008. His works are scattered across Russia, Europe and the US in private collections and leading public museums.
Bown, M. and Taylor, B. (1993). Art of the Soviets: : Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in a One-Party State, 1917-1992. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Bulatov, E., Fowle, K. and Krasteva, S. (2016). Erik Bulatov. Moscow: Garage Museum Of Contemporary Art
Осипова, И. (2016). Эрик Булатов: «Я завидую художникам с талантом легкого артистизма» ARTANDHOUSES. [online] ARTANDHOUSES. Available at: http://art-and-houses.ru/2016/11/18/erik-bulatov-ya-zaviduyu-hudozhnikam-s-talantom-legkogo-artistizma/
Jackson, M. (2010). The Experimental Group: Ilya Kabakov, Moscow Conceptualism, Soviet Avant-gardes. University of Chicago Press.
Znak.com. (2016). Художник Эрик Булатов — о фальши идеологии, свободе и смысле жизни. [online] Available at: https://www.znak.com/2016-06-15/hudozhnik_erik_bulatov_o_falshi_ideologii_svobode_i_smysle_zhizni
RFI. (2017). Эрик Булатов: «Как бы все ни было скверно, шанс у нас есть». [online] Available at: http://ru.rfi.fr/kultura/20170127-erik-bulatov-kak-vse-ni-bylo-skverno-shans-u-nas-est