“Shades of Red: The Evolution of Early Soviet Painting” opens March 5, 2011

The Museum of Russian Art’s newest exhibition highlights the unique period of Soviet/Russian art between the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and WWII.

Press Preview: Friday, March 4, 12-4pm at TMORA

MINNEAPOLIS (February 4, 2011) – Opening Saturday, March 5, 2011 at TMORA, Shades of Red: The Evolution of Early Soviet Painting brings together fifty-six superb works by Soviet artists painted during the decades immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Avoiding traditional generalizations about Soviet art, the exhibition explains the dynamic art scene of post-revolutionary Russia through works by well-known Russian/Soviet artists such as Alexander Deineka, Fedor Antonov, Georgi Rublev, Alexander Gerasimov, Gavriil Gorelov, Meer Akselrod and many others. Avant-garde representations of socialist labor, highly polished academic portraits, and colorful portrayals of minority ethnic groups reflect the multidirectional development of Soviet art under both Lenin and Stalin. The works on display provide a glimpse into the complicated careers of Soviet artists navigating the troubled seas of post-revolutionary Russia.

The art scene during the early Soviet era was never uniform. Dynamic movement towards idealistic social and cultural goals was an inherent part of the early Soviet regime, and the government tolerated aesthetic experimentation as part of the revolutionary environment. Multiple artistic approaches flourished in the 1920s as both traditional and avant-garde trends in art competed for public attention and support. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the atmosphere surrounding Soviet art changed as state control over artistic production gradually tightened.

Representing an historic realignment of artistic styles, soon to be rejected and persecuted avant-garde painters glorified socialist labor while Realists, who would become Stalin’s ‘court’ painters, created experimental modernist works influenced by western artistic elements. In 1932, Stalin and his bureaucracy banned all forms of independent artistic experimentation as the Party claimed dominion over the public sphere of the arts. Socialist Realism was imposed as the only officially sanctioned style of art.

While avant-garde artists were successfully silenced and formulaic paintings of heroic workers abounded, Stalinist art was not exclusively focused on depictions of socialist labor. An artistic dichotomy emerged—neo-classical nudes, portraits and landscape paintings executed in a highly polished academic style hung in the spacious apartments of the Party elite while proselytizing works of Socialist Realism were aggressively displayed in public exhibitions and museums.

“Shades of Red: The Evolution of Early Soviet Painting” will be on view through Thursday, September 15, 2011.

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