Since 1970 approximately one hundred thousand citizens of the Soviet Union have emigrated to the United States. Among them are as many as a hundred painters and sculptors who came to New York with great hopes and expectations for their lives and careers as artists in American society.1 This book is a record of their experiences. It is based on the reflections of the artists themselves as well as on the impressions of gallery owners and managers, art historians and critics who are familiar with the system of art in the Soviet Union and have known artists there or worked with them after emigration.2
Exploring the lives and the work of these artists, as they make the transition from the social and cultural world of the Soviet Union to our own very different one, can tell us much about these two societies as seen from the particular perspectives of our respondents. It also reveals important aspects of art itself--its rooting in human experience and its relation to the social, political, and cultural milieux in which it is created. The act of emigration, because of its radically disruptive character, throws a strong and peculiar light on the culture and society these artists left behind, on their new host country, and on the ways in which art is grounded in a social setting.