Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid were born in Moscow. Both artists attended the Moscow Art School from 1958 to 1960 and the Stroganov Institute of Art & Design, Moscow, from 1962 to 1967. Their collaborative work started in 1965 and in 1967.
They initiated the SOTS Art movement (the Soviet version of Western Pop Art). Their first international exhibition in 1976 was at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York. The work of Komar and Melamid has been characterized as "eclectic, blunt, satirical, eye catching and thought provoking." Parodying pre-glasnost Russia, much of their work is considered irreverent and unpredictable. Since then, they have had numerous public commissions and exhibitions throughout the world.
In 1978, Komar and Melamid became United States residents. In 1981, they were the first Russian artists to receive a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Notorious dissidents before they left the Soviet Union, the artists have since been called "exasperating expatriates" for their travesties of Socialist Realism. They worked together as a team for 20 years, meeting in a morgue while enrolled in an art school anatomy course in Moscow in the mid 60's. When they left the Soviet Union, their work was increasingly recognized and admired throughout the United States.
Komar and Melamid are in major collections throughout the world including the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Australian National Gallery and the Israel Museum.
Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid worked at STUDIO-f in November of 1990. The images created by this important collaborative team at STUDIO-f stretched emotional responses. Creative use of the front page of a newspaper as a central theme and common ground was used in many of the works. The stark pattern of the printed page superimposed with images of angels and various other symbolic forms created a powerful contrast. Other monoprints displayed angels above the University's landmark minarets. The monoprint reserved by the University of Tampa, The Angels XIII, describes an actual fire that happened on the roof of McKay Auditorium in November 1990 while the artists were working in the studio. The building is now Sykes Business College.
In 2001, Komar and Melamid began work on their last major project together, Symbols of the Big Bang, first exhibited at the Yeshiva University Museum, Center for Jewish History, New York. Using abstract symbols, the artists explored their spirituality and the connection between mysticism and science. In 2003, they began to turn some of the symbols into stained glass, which Russian authorities refused to exhibit during the Moscow portion of the exhibition, Berlin-Moscow/Moscow-Berlin (2004).
Komar and Melamid ceased collaborating in 2003.