"On the afternoon of December 18, 1973, police approached Leonid Lamm on the corner of Gorky Street and Mayakovsky Square in Moscow. A scenario experienced by millions of Soviet citizens ensued. Without warning, the policemen began to beat Lamm mercilessly as they dragged him into a police office. There the attack continued unabated until the artist was thrown against a wall destroying a picture of F. Dzerzhinsky (first chairman of Ch.K.-extraordinary committee, which later became the KGB). Lamm, the troublesome Non-conformist artist who had earlier come to police attention because of his public protests against the Soviet State, was arrested for destroying the picture and was thrown into the back of a Black Maria and driven off to Moscow's Butyrka prison accused of "street hooliganism, an all-purpose charge used to incarcerate those people who dared to speak out against the Communist Party and its workers' paradise. His arrest came exactly three weeks after he had applied for an exit visa from the Soviet Union." Michael P. Mezzatesta, Director Duke University Museum of Art. (From the exhibition catalogue - "Leonid Lamm: Birth of an Image" 1998)
This catalog has been produced in conjunction with the exhibition Leonid Lamm: Birth of an Image at the Duke University Museum of Art March 6-May 17, 1998.
Copyright 1998 Duke University Museum of Art
All rights reserved
Design by Leonid Lamm and Nancy Sears
Photography by Leonid and Innesa Lamm
Printed and bound in USA on acid-free paper
Printed by Theo Davis & Sons, Zebulon, NC
Cover: Leonid Lamm, The Morning of Our Motherland (Labor Camp Near Rostov-on Don), 1976-1987, 52 x 84 in.
Born in 1928 in Moscow, Leonid Lamm trained at the Moscow Council Building Institute in the Department of Architecture from 1944 to 1947. He studied under Iakov Chernikhov, a prominent architect and theoretician of the early Russian avant-garde, who became his mentor. Lamm was expelled from the Institute in 1947 for associating with a dissident group of mathematicians and writers known as the Poor Sybarites. He continued his education at the Moscow Institute of Printing Arts in 1948. He also began creating paintings and graphic works inspired by the theories and forms of constructivist art and architecture while deepening his knowledge of the Russian avant-garde at the same time. After graduating from the Institute in 1953, Lamm worked as an art director and an artist for the Saratov Publishing House. In 1955, he returned to Moscow and worked as an illustrator. He joined the Union of Soviet Artists in 1964 and pursued a career as a book illustrator to support his fine art practice.
In 1973, after applying for permission to immigrate to Israel, Lamm was arrested and sentenced to three years imprisonment. He spent two years in Moscow's notorious Butyrka Prison and one year in a labor camp. During his incarceration, Lamm agreed to make signage with slogans for the entire prison and decorated the outdoor grounds at the labor camp for May Day "festivities" - producing banners, billboards, and posters. The art supplies provided allowed Lamm to continue to make his art during the imprisonment - creating watercolors and sketches depicting prison and camp life.
After his release in 1976, the artist incorporated these sketches and watercolors into a series of larger works later featured in the "Sots Art" exhibition (1986) at the New Museum in NYC. The show also traveled to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Ontario, and the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse.
Leonid Lamm immigrated to the United States and settled in New York in 1982.
His installation "Adam & Eve: Freedom is Recognized Necessity," - also based on watercolors made in prison, was acquired by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Lamm had multiple shows in galleries and museums in the USA, Canada, Holland, Germany, France, Italy, and even Russia during Perestroika. Works from both the prison and the labor camp are currently part of collections at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; Yale University Art Gallery; Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University; The Jewish Museum, NYC; and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Leonid Lamm: Birth of an Image
- Publisher: Duke University Museum of Art
- 1st edition (January 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- Paperback: 105 pages
- ISBN 0-938989-19-7
- Library of Congress Card Catalog Number: 98-070333
- Item Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 11 x .5 inches