Soviet art exhibition in England

This video is called Russian Constructivism.

By Len Phelan in Britain:

Formed for function

Friday 20 July 2012

Usually exhibitions on Soviet art and design are blockbuster affairs, focusing on the extraordinary heritage of visual arts, music, design, film and performance which still impact on contemporary arts practise and audiences globally.

But a new exhibition which has just opened at Cambridge University Library provides a unique and strikingly different perspective on Soviet arts.

It’s based on the collection of Doctor Catherine Cooke, a world-renowned expert on Soviet architecture and design who spent decades amassing a vast and eclectic collection of rare books, journals and propaganda posters before her death in 2004.

So-called ephemera, which nevertheless has intrinsic design value, are a feature of the exhibition. They include ration coupons, cigarette packets, bank notes, badges, perfume bottles, professional membership cards and even food packaging.

As such A Soviet Design for Life is an intriguing chronicle of life in Russia from the late tsarist period to perestroika through the art, architecture and design of those tumultuous decades.

“Soviet design and architecture are of increasing interest, as witnessed by the Royal Academy’s recent show Building The Revolution,” curator Mel Bach says. “Our exhibition breaks new ground not only because it’s based on a major figure like Cooke’s own, rather visionary collection, but also because it looks at Soviet design in the everyday as well as the monumental.”

That’s why envelopes and cigarette packets take their place alongside plans for some of the most iconic buildings of the 20th century in the exhibition which, according to Bach, “provides a narrative about the Soviet period from an unusual angle, looking at its themes through examples of design – political education through the beautiful illustration of a children’s book for instance.” …

Runs at Cambridge University Library, West Road, until April 6 next year. Admission free. Opening times

“Seeking for Utopia”—or were they? The Russian avant-garde and Soviet modernism in posters. Exhibition at the Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo: here.

An exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Humanism + Dynamite = The Soviet Photomontages of Aleksandr Zhitomirsky, features the work of leading Soviet photomontage artist and designer, Aleksandr Zhitomirsky (1907-1993): here.

5 thoughts on “Soviet art exhibition in England

  1. Pingback: British anti war artist Peter Kennard | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Resistance and art, from the 1871 Paris Commune to today’s Iraq war. Part II | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Saturday 25th November 2017

    The exhibition Red Star Over Russia is a reminder of the vital role visual culture played in building a new society following the 1917 revolution, says MICHAL BONCZA

    Red Star Over Russia:
    A Revolution in Visual Culture, 1905-55
    Tate Modern, London

    RED Star Over Russia consists of over 250 photographs, posters, leaflets, banners and publications from the massive collection — running into the hundreds of thousands — of the late David King, whose Anti-nazi League graphics caught the eye in the late 1970s.

    When he was alive, King travelled extensively in the Soviet Union, unearthing graphic artworks of the revolution as he did so and these were later acquired by Tate Modern — the exhibition title part-borrows from his 2009 book Red Star Over Russia: A Visual History of the Soviet Union.

    “I used to dream, like all children, how life would be in the 21st century,” King once said. “If anyone had told me there would still be inequality, racism, kings, queens and religious maniacs stalking the planet, I would have considered them crazy.”

    The evidence from this exhibition is a plain and simple response to King’s sense of disappointment. The Soviet Union did manage to do away with all those evils in a process greatly aided by the visual debate and education — evidenced here — it had undertaken throughout the country, despite constant bellicose hostility from the West.

    On show are the familiar classics of El Lissitzky’s Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge (1920), Dmitri Moor’s Death to World Imperialism (1920), Adolf Strakhov’s Emancipated Woman: Build Socialism (1926) and Nina Vatolina’s Most Evil Enemy of Women, Everybody to the Struggle Against Fascism.

    And there are lesser-known gems like Alexander Rodchenko’s groundbreaking photography, the poster proclaiming the Decree on Land of October 27, 1917 instituting the takeover of all privately owned land without compensation, or the El Lissitzky and Sergei Senkin photomontage The Task of the Press is the Education of the Masses (1928).

    But revolution also meant recreational activities, including sport and the series of posters by the incomparable Gustav Klutsis for the all-union Spartakiad in Moscow in 1928 (left) mesmerise with the inventive energy of the photomontage and extraordinary graphic skill.

    Present is also the uncomfortable and voyeuristic morbidity in the “mugshots” of those caught up in Stalin’s purges, group photos with individuals crossed out with “enemy of the people” annotations, or even the dead Vladimir Mayakovsky with a gaping wound in his side.

    At the heart of the exhibition is a palpable sense of loss and regret at how the greatest political project in contemporary human civilisation fell short of its promise. But equally evident is the people’s boundless capacity for forging a revolutionary future of their own.

    A century ago, the Russians did just that. An example, surely, to follow.

    Until February 18, box office:


  4. Pingback: Photomontage artist John Heartfield, new online exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: British pro-peace artist Peter Kennard exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.