Opening June 15, 2013
Women in Soviet Art
MINNEAPOLIS (June 4, 2013)– The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) presents Women in Soviet Art, an original exhibition in the Main, Mezzanine, and Fireside Galleries that brings together over sixty paintings by approximately fifty major Soviet artists, examining the visual depictions of the Soviet woman after the Second World War from 1948 to 1991. Avoiding traditional portrayals of the cloistered feminine world, Soviet art passionately propagated the image of women as active contributors to socialist economy. On loan from several private collections, these magnificent canvases reveal a Soviet fascination with women at work.
Women workers were prominently featured in Soviet art reflecting the Soviet government’s claim to all-inclusive equality as well as the broad involvement of women in the Soviet economy. The Soviet Constitution of 1918 proclaimed equal rights to men and women in all spheres of life. Under Soviet rule, women entered the workforce and higher education in unprecedented numbers. At the same time, the Soviet state limited personal freedoms and imposed new burdens. Officially emancipated, Soviet women had to learn to handle the demands and dilemmas of communist rule and rapid modernization as well as the art of homemaking in a new socialist environment.
The revolution in women’s role in society fueled bold interpretations of the Soviet woman as a dynamic cultural icon. Soviet art questioned the age-old dichotomy of feminine and masculine as essentially different. Women were seldom portrayed as objects of beauty, neither were they stereotyped as seductresses, angels of the house, or damsels in distress. The exhibition marshals a variety of strong female characters reflecting the changing approaches to women as subjects during the subsequent rules of Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev.
The predominantly large-scaled paintings in the exhibition are organized into thematic sections in the Main and Mezzanine Galleries showing the varied representations of Soviet women, subject-based movements and styles, and works by women artists themselves. The works of the late 1940s and 1950s reveal the conservative turn in Soviet art that mirrored the restoration of the woman’s traditional role as caregiver under Stalin. The ‘village’ movement of the 1960s questioned the idealistic image of the Soviet woman as the powerful mistress of her own fate. Prominent under Khrushchev and Brezhnev, the theme of the Second World War is presented on canvases that portray women as both heroes and victims. Also represented is the Severe Style, which abandoned the impressionistic approach to painting in favor of bold colors to create a dramatic artistic statement about Soviet reality. Contrary to the Severe Style, the ‘romanticizing’ movement of the post-Stalinist era ventured out of the mainstream to create emotionally charged works portraying women as objects and subjects of love. Examples of work by women artists, whose art is not readily distinguishable from that of their male counterparts, is also included to demonstrate the artistic achievements of Soviet female artists but also their lack of engagement with the feminist agenda in a country where the apparent success of women’s emancipation was undeniable. Finally, the art of Gorbachev’s Perestroika reflects the re-opening of a discussion on Soviet woman and her place in society at the end of communist rule.
Concurrently in the Fireside Gallery, the educational section of the exhibition provides supplementary material to further educate visitors on the role of women in Soviet life. Drawing from various sources—such as Soviet posters, avant-garde and sacred textiles, photographs, propaganda porcelain, and feminist Soviet publications—these materials offer visitors an opportunity to see the manifestation of Soviet life in every-day objects.
Museum Curator Dr. Maria Zavialova commented, “This exhibition considers women as subjects and, to some extent, as makers of art during the postwar Soviet period that is often seen as rigidly dogmatic, while in fact it was quite dynamic with the changing attitudes towards, and perceptions of, what it meant to be Soviet. In the exhibition’s title, the two words ‘Soviet’ and ‘Women’ are of equal importance: Soviet culture significantly revised the previous meanings of ‘woman,’ and our new exhibition offers a fascinating journey through the gendered Soviet world.”
The exhibition was made possible through the generous support of Americo and Jan Del Calzo.
Women in Soviet Art is on view through November 10, 2013.
High-resolution images available upon request.
About The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA)
The Museum of Russian Art, a non-profit, educational institution, is the only museum in North America dedicated exclusively to the preservation and exhibition of all forms of Russian art and artifacts from many eras. TMORA is located in a state-of-the-art, historical building at 5500 Stevens Ave. S. (intersection of I-35W and Diamond Lake Road) in Minneapolis. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday-Friday), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Saturday) and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday). Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for children 14 and up, as well as university students with ID; children under 14 are free. Museum members receive free admission. To learn more about the Museum’s exhibitions, events and history, visit http://tmora.org/ or call 612-821-9045.