Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe’s portrait transformations into the key characters of the world’s pop culture (ranging from Hitler to Jesus) in the series Life of Great Monroes was created in collaboration with photographer Mikhail Korolev in 1995 for Yakut Gallery. That same year the works of this series were exhibited on outdoor advertising billboards along Bolshaya Yakimanka street in Moscow under the name Life of Great People.
The artist saw his calling in acting as an antenna of the collective unconscious. According to Monroe, ‘it is the fundamental qualities of my characters’ nature that are of importance, like, for example, differences in expression of love (in Jesus and Marilyn), or aggressive brutality (in Napoleon and Hitler), etc. However, even these qualities are minor to me, while the main subject of my studies is the geometry of those faces, a sort of portrait mandalas, i.e. absolutely symbolic values which have come to automatically mean a set of certain qualities in the minds of millions of people’.
The photographs are executed in the style of grand portraits, half-lengths, where the subjects pose against a neutral background with surrounding paraphernalia conveying their profession and status.
Inclusion of Marilyn Monroe into the series, with her distinctive bleached blonde curls, red lips and low-cut dresses, sends a clear message to the viewer that those are not portraits of historical figures of the past (as it may seem with Peter the Great, Catherine the Great or Lenin), but collective, generalized images that are inherent in contemporary cultural context.