New paintings by the Russian-born artist, Valery Yershov, were shown for the first time in the United States at the Salamatina Gallery. On view were stunning portraits of some of America’s youngest and hottest A-list celebrities from Lady Gaga to Taylor Swift, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Justin Bieber. Also presented were images of famous contemporary Russians from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the oligarch and owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, Mikhail Prokhorov. The show opened on Thursday, July 29 with a packed party of art enthusiasts, who enjoyed live entertainment and Russian fare. “Celebrities are a reflection of the world we live in,” comments Yershov. “I analyze our present time through the images which proliferate in the media – paparazzi snaps, video clips, advertising – and transport these highly visible personalities from 2010 into a different era.” Yershov’s interpretation of the fame game was both imaginative and unique. He took America’s cultural icons and presented them in the context of the 20th century epoch of his homeland – also known as the Silver Age of Russian Art. Thus, figures such as Lady Gaga were depicted in traditional Russian costumes, complete with babushka or Ukranian-style braid. Teen heartthrob, Robert Pattinson, was shown in many guises, dressed as a peasant, an aviator, a gangster or Tsar Nicholas II. In the Russian sector, Yershov paired the popular Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with the infamous monk, Rasputin. Separated by several decades of history but linked by the artist’s creativity, these men were shown identically dressed as cosmonauts in one picture, and as robed monks in another.
Valery Yershov was born in Yessentuki, Russia in 1960. He studied at the prestigious St. Petersburg State Repin Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, back when it was located in Leningrad. His formidable training in life drawing and art history is manifest throughout his work. Yershov blends classical elements with contemporary touches in a self-proclaimed style called “New Romanticism.” He relies on his academically-based technique to reinterpret the genre of portraiture; deriving inspiration from paparazzi snaps, video clips and advertising. He also experiments with his medium, applying such novelties as golf balls to a portrait of Mozart or dressing a modern day athlete in Victorian armor. With artistic fluency and imagination, Yershov mates classicism with pop culture, bridging several centuries of painting.
Yershov was a member of the “association” of underground artists when he lived in Moscow. He became a resident of a community on Furmanny Lane and led an alternative artistic lifestyle. His early work was Neo Expressionist in tone, dominated by distorted, mutilated characters dissolving into abstract, Medusa-like creatures. During the Perestroika years of the mid 1980’s, Yershov was recognized as one of Russia’s most progressive artists. Glasnost and liberation from censorship provided the artist with a new found freedom, resulting in a body of novel work centered upon current affairs and aesthetic issues.
Yershov emigrated to New York in 1989 and became a part of the Conceptual Art movement. His initial focus was monumental decorative objects which were designed to convey beauty and spirituality. Yershov then forged a distinctive brand of ironic Realism, one which reflects life in the age of digital manipulation and staged reality. With masterful detail he paints lavish interiors – elegant rooms with vaulted ceilings, arched doorways, parquet floors and neoclassical sculptures - that are whimsically inhabited by animals, some of whom are dressed as humans. Yershov is also noted for his dynamic portraits of popular figures - artists, entrepreneurs, cowboys, hippies and celebrities - everyone from Lady Gaga, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Justin Bieber, to fellow artist Matthew Barney. Sumptuously painted with exaggerated figures and high-keyed colors, these images are spectacular flights of fancy that fuse daily life with popular culture.
Valery Yershov has held solo exhibitions in New York, Connecticut and Arizona, as well as in Russia, Finland and Switzerland. He has been widely exhibited in group shows in the United States and throughout Europe. His work has a strong secondary market, and is often auctioned at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
He currently lives and works in New York.