Artful Photos: Soviet Art

If you would like to share artwork you have photographed or created, please include a link to your blog in the comments! I would love to see the art other bloggers have admired! 

In early January, Dale and I went to the Chicago Art Institute, to see a couple of temporary exhibits. One of them was called Revolutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test.

20180106_142816There were several sections to this exhibit, including magazine covers, theatre, plastic arts, propaganda. Many of the revolutionary posters from the Bolshevik Revolution were primarily black, white and red. Red was the color that seemed to dominate many forms of art in the Soviet Union.  I noticed a lack of a variety of colors used in most of what was on display. I may post more of the artwork featured in this exhibit, but today I feature two of my favorite items: a chess set and a robot.

First is a fancy chess set created by Natal’ia Dan’ko, called The Reds and the Whites.


The artist Alexandra Exter (1882-1949)  created a marionette “robot” for a film that was never completed by Danish filmmaker Peter Urban Gad. Exter emigrated to Paris after a career in Russia that included making festival decorations in Kiev and teaching color at a Moscow art school. She had introduced stage design as an area of study in 1918 and continued instruction in this area in Paris.

The set of marionettes she created numbered at least 20 and “treated the human body as a sum of lines and planes in movement.”
There were photographs (gelatin silver prints) of other marionettes from this set, Marionettes for an unrealized film by Peter Urban Gad, although it is uncertain whether they were also made for the film. The pieces were created in 1926-27.20180106_144234 (2)

The marionettes in the photographs actually appeared in a 1928 Punch and Judy sketch. The performance included “raucous interaction” by lively carnival crowds.


The exhibit overall was interesting, but I was struck by a lack of imagination and creativity, perhaps due to restrictions imposed on artists. It bothered me that the Soviet leaders, professing the goal of egalitarianism and exalting the worker, seemed to bend over backward to show the workers’ daily lives and prescribed that realism in their art.  Did they not think that the “proletariat” was able to appreciate art for art’s sake? If museums were free, and the workers had leisure time, wouldn’t they enter an art museum to view the works of the world’s best painters? The beauty, the colors and designs…there was a sterility in Soviet artwork: instead of nature, abstractionism or fantasy, what we saw was the stark realism, the drudgery of workers’ lives. Over a door in the back of the exhibit was this sign, which seemed to be part of a poem describing what is lost in modernization and urbanization, but for me put into words what I was feeling:20180106_152401