de Saisset Museum

South Bay's free museum of art and history

Face: Portraits by Valentin Popov

February 22 - March 17, 2013 and April 12 - June 30, 2013


Ukranian-born and Oakland-based artist Valentin Popov has explored a wide range of subject matter and media in his art, and all of his works feature the skilled technique and formal ability for which he has become known. His pieces speak to the lineage of art history, yet sometimes vacillate between homage and parody, often laced with a sense of humor, irony, or Pop.

In his latest series, Popov revisits an idea once put forth by Andy Warhol. Though perhaps best known for his popular images of mass-produced objects—Brillo boxes and Campbell's soup cans—Warhol also actively documented the faces of his friends and acquaintances through photographs and silk screen paintings, many of which were produced at a uniform scale of 40 x 40 inches. Warhol once spoke of mounting an exhibition of these portraits in which the walls would be filled from top to bottom with faces.

Face: Portraits by Valentin Popov was conceived by the artist with this idea in mind. Like Warhol, Popov uses a consistent scale and format in the works. Painted at two-thirds life size on canvases measuring 28 by 26 inches, the series features individuals who have touched the artist's life in various ways. Some of the sitters, such as curator Robert Flynn Johnson, collector and gallerist Paula Kirkeby, and guitarist Joe Satriani, are well-known figures in the arts. Others are known in much smaller circles; they are friends, neighbors, and personal acquaintances of Popov. The style of the images varies; it ranges from loose and painterly to precisely detailed, almost photo-realistic. The renderings reflect the personalities of the sitters, as seen through Popov's eyes. In rare instances, the portraits include an accoutrement—the tip of a guitar, for instance—that hints at the sitter's profession or interests.

To date, Popov has completed more than fifty paintings in the series. The exhibition includes these completed works as well as a sampling of images from other moments in the artist's career. Together, the portraits compose a history, a generation, a contemporary sampling.

Valentin Popov is represented by Modernism Gallery, San Francisco.


Images, left to right: Rob Nelson (Unfinished), 2012. Oliver Glover, 2012. Joe Satriani, 2012. All 28 x 26 in. Courtesy of the artist.
This exhibition is sponsored in part by Russian Standard Vodka.

Russain Standard vodka logo

SCU Student Art Reviews

In spring 2013, students enrolled in Prof. Robin Tremblay-McGaw's English class were asked to write reviews of the de Saisset's current exhibitions. Essays by Mark Horiuchi and Kevin Yee were selected for publication on our website.

Mark Horiuchi

Kevin Yee