Erik Bulatov is born in 1933 in Swerdlowsk / Urals. In 1947 he begins to study at the Moscow School of Art and changes in 1952 to the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow, where he finishes his degree in 1958. In 1956 he participates for the first time in an exhibition with the title »Young Moscow Artists«. From 1959 on he works as an illustrator of children’s books.
Bulatovs education takes place in a cultural climate defined by the state – contacts to the Western Avantgarde are undermined – as well as a dialogue with Russian Constructivist artists. Similar to Ilya Kabakov, Bulatov tries to gain more freedom by earning on the side, since with only a few exceptions his works are not exhibited in the Soviet Union. The work as illustrator of children’s books leads him to grapple with theoretical forms of perception in text and image, whose pedagogical and demagogical power of persuasion he finds fascinating. His teachers are Robert Falk and the graphic artist and illustrator Wladimir Faworskij.
Bulatov participates together with Wjatscheslaw Kalinin in an exhibition at the Kurèatov-Institut in Moskau in 1965, which was forced to close one hour after opening. Nevertheless he becomes a member of the Soviet Association of Artists in 1967 and in 1986 he becomes a member of the »Gorkom« (City Committee for Graphic Artists). In the late 1960s his first analytical pictures come about, that are devoted to problems of perception of the abstract pictorial space (Horizont 1971 — 72). In the works Danger (1971 — 73) and Caution (1973) realistic scenes are superimposed with letters for the first time.
Bulatov devotes himself in the ensuing years more and more to the topic of picture perception and its power of seduction rooted in the everyday. The interest which links him to his friends Oleg Wassiljew and Ilya Kabakov he pursues in a creative and willfull manner. His works, which are assigned to the second Moscow Avantgarde, appear to move in the direction of kitsch and mass art. In this sense Bulatov’s first works tread a fine line. His pictures seem to be placating propaganda for omnipresent political topics whose overbearing Pathos often misses the mark and yet still shows an effect (Dangerous, 1972 — 73; You are very welcome, 1974;Krassikov Street, 1976). Bulatov becomes known in the West for the first time through the group show in the Paris Gallery of Dina Vierny in 1973.
Despite the ideology critique in his art Bulatov stands nonetheless in a certain opposition to »Soz Art« – that art direction so-called by artists such as Vitalji Komar and Alexander Melamid in 1972, which »renews« and ridicules official mythologies. Here they are referring to a phenomenon that puts on a new pop kitsch version of Socialist Realism in keeping with cultural advertising satirizing American Pop Art. Bulatov himself puts much less weight on the disclosure of political iconography. His interests lie much more in the dispute over pictorial means. Finally his works show the relentless insight into the impenetrable power sphere of the political picture culture.
In den 1980s Bulatov develops his own self-styled variation on picture propaganda, which now clearly seeks an interaction between political signs and fictive landscape spaces, whereby shifts in meaning and ironies of clear political messages are planned. (Trademark 1986, Path 1988). Here a greater proximity to the methods of the Moscow Conceptualists is revealed. In his text »About my work« (1984) Bulatov makes clear: »In this material social world there is really nothing that our consciousness can lean on. Nothing that deserves to be trusted.«
Bulatov’s works are shown at a big traveling exhibition in Zurich, Frankfurt/M. und Bonn in 1987. In 1988/89 his work can be seen in Zurich, Frankfurt, Freibourg, Paris, London and in the USA.
Since the 90’s Bulatov turns in the same way towards the US American myths, protagonists from the American film industry and national symbols become new emblems (Peace,1989; New York 2004/05).
In 1990 Bulatov goes first to New York and lives since 1991 in Paris.
Erik Bulatov, Freiheit ist Freiheit / Erik Bulatov, Freedom is Freedom: Ausst.-Kat. Kestnergesellschaft Hannover, hg. von Veit Görner, Caroline Käding, Bielefeld 2006
Traumfabrik Kommunismus, Die visuelle Kultur der Stalinzeit / Dream Factory Communism. The Visual Culture of the Stalin Era: Ausst.-Kat. Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt/M., hg. von Boris Groys, Max Hollein, Ostfildern Ruit 2003
Erik Bulatov. Moskau: Ausst.-Kat. Kunsthalle Zürich u.a., hg. v. Claudia Jolles, Zürich 1988
Sots Art, Eric Bulatov, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid: Ausst.-Kat. The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York u.a., New York 1986