Painter, graphic artist, book illustrator
Pivovarov studied at the Kalinin Industrial Art School in Moscow in the years 1951–57, firstly in the artistic weaving department and then the sculpture department. From 1957 to 1962 he studied under Andrey Goncharov at the Moscow Polygraphic Institute. He was an illustrator from 1962, collaborating with the magazines Murzilka and Vesyolye kartinki, and the publishers Znaniye, Detskaya literatura, Khudozhestvennaya literatura and others. He designed more than 50 books, providing illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales; poetry by Genrikh Sapgir, Ovsey Driz and Irina Pivovarova; Antoniy Pogorelsky’s story The Black Hen; and Scandinavian fairy tales.
He began working independently in free graphics and painting from the end of the 1960s, and created a number of paintings by combining the laconic aesthetics of railway posters with the Russian absurdist traditions of the OBERIU group (Daniil Kharms, Alexander Vvedensky and others): Blue Eyes of the Mad Policeman, Oh! and A Stroll. He joined the free Sretensky Boulevard group, which included Kabakov, Bulatov, Vasilyev, Yankilevsky and Steinberg, at the end of the 1970s. He worked on conceptual ‘albums’, which combined text and image, in the 1970s, and used nitro enamel car paint in paintings between 1972 and 1982. In 1975 he created the conceptual cycle 'Projects for a Lonely Man' in which he introduced text into the picture. He turned to minimalist abstraction in 1978. In 1979, before moving to Prague, he showed the cycle 'Seven Conversations' at an exhibition by Moscow’s Committee of Graphic Artists. Worked on the albums Tears, Face, Conclusions, Garden, Eros, Fence, Sacralizators and Microhomo in 1975–82.
Pivovarov moved to Prague in 1982 having been expelled from the Soviet Artists’ Union; publishers had thus stopped working with him. He returned to the album genre in Kabakov and Pivovarov. in 1983 the artist’s first solo exhibition in Prague was banned by the authorities, but the next one did take place in 1984. In 1991, after the so-called Velvet Revolution, he and his wife, the critic and curator Milena Slavicka, became the curators of the non-commercial gallery Pi-Pi-Art, where several radical exhibitions by Czech artists were organised. He collaborated with the magazine Výtvarné uméní in 1990–97 and illustrated books by Khlebnikov, Pasternak, Vaginov and Kholin. He produced several series of pictures: 'Diary of an Adolescent' (1986), 'Time of the Rose' (1988), 'Apartment 22' (1992–95), 'Nebeský chelm' (1998), 'Eidoses' (2001–03), 'Lemon Eaters' (2005–06), 'Circumference of the Circle' (2007) and 'Philosophers or Russian Nights' (2010). He also worked in ceramics ('Bohateli' series of plates) and glass ('Glass' series) and continued working in the album genre: Agent in Norway (1993), Dramatis Personae (1996), Foxes and Holidays (2005) and Small Ideas (2011).
Since 1989 his works have been exhibited in the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Austria and England. ‘Metempsychosis’, his first exhibition in Russia, was held in the L-gallery in 1993. The retrospective ‘A Mechanic’s Footsteps’ took place in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow in 2004, and was then shown in the Russian Museum in St Petersburg. Two programme exhibitions were held in the Moscow Museum of Modern Art: Lemon Eaters in 2006 and THEM in 2011. He is author of the books Agent in Love (2011), Grey Notebooks (2002), On the Love of Word and Image (2004) and Ah and Oh! (2010). F.B.