Opening May 13 – Soviet Life, Russian Reality: Photography from the USSR

The Museum of Russian Art’s newest exhibition highlights over fifty original prints from 35-millimeter negatives taken between the 1950s and 1990s.

Made from original photographic negatives, the remarkable images were printed in the Soviet Union at or around the time they were taken and reflect the photographers’ creative choices in capturing the various sides of Soviet life. The exhibition also includes a selection of approximately seventeen intriguing artifacts from the Soviet era. On display for the first time in a U.S. museum, the selection of photographs and artifacts draws from the extensive collection of Thomas Werner, professor at the famed Parsons The New School for Design in New York.

The fascinating images provide an insider’s view of the realities of Soviet life under the socialist regime, exploring its various sides and reflecting the multiplicity of lifestyles in the seemingly uniform socialist environment. The black-and-white photos feature Soviet food stores, daycare centers, schools, and construction sites, showing Soviet citizens at work and leisure. Specificities of life under socialism provided extensive material for photographers to refer to. From becoming a young pioneer to taking a bath in a communal men’s bathhouse, the images provoke the dissection of the perceived stereotypes in the presentation of Soviet realities. There is no attempt to answer questions about whether there is a single Soviet identity. Instead the exhibition creates a context that invites reflection while presenting diverse points of view from a selection of photographers who worked within the contexts of the Soviet Union.

The structure of the exhibition is based on the juxtaposition of images, which are divided into groups of two-to-three, each showing the various, often-conflicting aspects of life under socialism. Rather than attempting to define a single Soviet identity, the exhibition contrasts the official Soviet ‘story’ with unembellished depictions of Soviet citizens’ daily pursuits. Portrayals of public meetings and celebrations, professional photographer images, vernacular shots and sentimental family photos are brought together in an orchestrated dialogue to recreate the complex texture of the Soviet world in its four final decades.

With the decline of film photography, pre-digital era photographic prints are becoming increasingly rare, and many of the images in this exhibition exist in one unique copy. The collapse of the Soviet Union also contributes to the rareness of these items.  All of the photographs included in this exhibition are original images developed from 35-millimeter negatives and printed between the 1950s and 1990s in the former Soviet Union.

The exhibition closes September 16, 2012.

Please refer to our website for sample images and more information:

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