Igor Chelkovski’s best know and widely respected contribution to the Russian contemporary art is his magazine “А-Я” (“A-Z”). Published in France after Chelkovski emigrated there in 1976, it was the best Russian-language magazine on contemporary art ever published in Russia (then Soviet Union) or abroad. Between 1979 and 1986 eight issues with color illustrations and texts penned by Boris Groys, Vladimir Paperny and Ilya Kabakov were released. Not only did the magazine introduce Russian contemporary art to the international public, it allowed the artists themselves to find out about each other’s work. The magazine created a common playground, a unified context for working artists and critics. Unlike most Russian periodicals published abroad, “А-Я” did not have a political agenda and was focused solely on art. No words were wasted to describe such obvious things as the potential danger of being an independent artist in the Soviet Union.
Understandably, Chelkovski the publisher kept Chelkovski the artist in the shadows. Thus Chelkovsky was one of the few artists of his generation the magazine never wrote about. Yet he never stopped working as an artist, and continues to do so. His works have the same perfectionist pedigree that his magazine did. Being true to formalism in the best sense of the word, Chelkovski has never been drawn to themes that have their center of gravity outside of pure esthetics. Even his giant milk carton does not seem to have been an exercise in pop or sots art but rather the exploration of a perfect shape – in those days milk was sold in pyramidal packages. Chelkovski’s paintings and sculpture could be called minimalist, but his minimalism is never cold and removed. It always has a crafted, hand-made feel. He loves construction toys, and their building blocks are frequent motives in his art. Chelkovski does not deconstruct the world and leave it in pieces. What he likes, is not taking things apart, but putting them together. He assembles a new world, clean-shaped and orderly.