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The Soviet Arts Experience
by Mia DiMeo

Spearheaded by the University of Chicago Presents, the Soviet Arts Experience is a collaborative effort across Chicago institutions to showcase Soviet art, music, dance and theater. Although events began in October of 2010, the bulk of the visual arts shows are happening in the next few months and include Northwestern University’s Block Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and several venues at the University of Chicago. Check out the website for a Soviet Arts Chronology, and a full event calendar.

Here are our picks:


Through October 23, 2011

Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad 1941–45 at The Art Institute of Chicago

Block out a couple of hours to get through this one, and invite your favorite history-buff retiree, or your printmaker friends. If you want more war, check out the prequel exhibit "Belligerent Encounters: Graphic Chronicles of War and Revolution, 1500–1945."


Through December 31, 2011

Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary at the Special Collections Research Center at The University of Chicago Library

This exhibit of Soviet children’s books and graphic art from 1927-1948, is organized by University of Chicago students and faculty, and includes a thorough web exhibition with lots of good images and info online, as well as a print catalogue.


August 30–January 22, 2011

“Process and Artistry in the Soviet Vanguard” at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago

The creative process behind 1920s and 1930s Soviet propaganda, from preparatory sketch to completed, mass-produced print is covered in this exhibit.


Sep 20, 2011–Mar 19, 2012

“They Were Fighting for Our Freedom: American and Soviet Propaganda Posters of World War II” and Papering Over Tough Times: Soviet Propaganda Posters of the 1930s at Northwestern University Library 

Tying American and Soviet posters together with themes like strength against the foe and militaristic tradition, “They Were Fighting for Our Freedom” is a collaboration between Northwestern University Library and the Peter the Great Museum/Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg, Russia, that has already toured across Europe.  “Papering Over Tough Times” shows Stalin’s propaganda as a veil for famine and other hardships in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.


Gustav Klutsis, The USSR is the Stakhanovite brigade of the world’s proletariat, 1931, lithograph. Courtesy private collection.


September 23–December 4, 2011

 “Views and Re-Views: Soviet Political Posters and Cartoons” and “Tango with Cows: Book Art of the Russian Avant-Garde, 1910–1917” at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University

“Views and Re-Views” covers graphic arts from the Russian Revolution in 1918 until the end of the Cold War with work by Viktor Deni, El Lissitsky and others. Meditate on rural versus modern with dancing farm animals in “Tango with Cows,” named for a book and poem by the Russian avant-garde poet Vasily Kamensky.

Viktor Koretsky, Africa Fights, Africa Will Win!, 1971, Poster on paper. Ne boltai! Collection. On view in the exhibition "Vision and Communism." 


September 29, 2011–January 22, 2012

“Vision and Communism” at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago

This is the first major museum exhibition on the work of Soviet artist and designer Viktor Koretsky (1909–1998), whose work starkly contrasts more familiar social realist propaganda with images advertising Communism to cultures around the world. More than ninety posters, photographs, and original maquettes made by Koretsky will be on display, and there will be a coinciding film festival, screening films by Aleksandr Medvedkin and Chris Marker.


Friday, October 14, 9 am–6:30 pm

Agitation! a Symposium” at the Special Collections Research Center, Joseph Regenstein Library, The University of Chicago, 1100 E. 57th Street

This day-long event includes panel discussions and lectures on art and political agitation. A website with registration info and a full schedule to follow.


-Mia DiMeo, ArtSlant Staff Writer

(Image at top: In Nina Sakonskaia's Mamin Most (“Mom’s Bridge”) from 1933, children and adults collaborate to "model a new world."Courtesy of Special Collections Research Center/University of Chicago)



Posted by Mia DiMeo on 8/22/11 | tags: Soviet poster art propaganda film

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