miércoles, 5 de abril de 2017

American and Soviet interwar art was remarkably similar | MercatorNet | April 6, 2017

American and Soviet interwar art was remarkably similar

| MercatorNet  | April 6, 2017

American and Soviet interwar art was remarkably similar

Americans looked at Russians looking at America with fascination.
Barnaby Haran | Apr 5 2017 | comment 

Charles Sheeler, American Landscape, 1930. Photo © 2016. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence Barnaby HaranUniversity of Hull
There are two exhibitions on at London’s Royal Academy, each presenting a contrasting perspective on the visual expressions of the interwar years in the US and Soviet Russia. This was a period when artists, designers, and writers represented and even helped to shape epic social transformations. The Conversation
In Russia, the successive five-year plans aspired to create a modern Communist society at lightning speed from the wreckage of World War I, the Revolution, and the Civil War, whatever the (eventually dire) human cost. By contrast, the New Deal in America was a restorative effort to salve a country in economic depression, a lost nation reeling in the aftermath of the Wall Street crash.
The confluence of these two shows couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. The blurred line between official and unofficial dialogues between American and Russian political figures is once again the subject of intense scrutiny. The Royal Academy’s two shows allow us to dive into the history of these relations at their most vivid: the troubled times of the 1920s and 1930s.
Thomas Hart Benton, Cotton Pickers, 1945. © Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank Trustee/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2016
The pairing also serves as a reminder of the power of public art in an age when state-funded culture in America is under threat and art speculators, most notoriously Russian oligarchs, persist in fostering a market of engorged prices.
Revolution: Russian Art
The Russian art show is a fittingly giant exhibition that amasses a welter of early Soviet visual culture, from paintings to porcelain, photographs, films, and even a full-size recreation of an apartment designed by El Lissitzky, a leading avant-garde polymath who worked in numerous media.
An alternative title to the exhibition could be “Russia Before the Fall”: the timeframe (1917-1932) pointedly limits the scope to the years of post-revolutionary experimentation prior to Socialist Realism’s orthodoxy and the descent into tyranny (although the malignancy of Stalinism was already pervasive by 1932). Spectators walk through a giddying rendition of the cultural explosion of the Revolution’s first decade. In this early period, efforts to construct a new world manifested in countless modernist icons of leaders and workers – and in the abstract shapes and hues of the Constructivists, who aspired to create an original Communist lexicon.
Kazimir Malevich, Peasants, c. 1930. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo © 2016, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
The exhibition shows the full range of Soviet painting and graphic arts, from the increasingly precarious avant-garde, who tried to reconfigure art as production, to painterly landscapes celebrating Mother Russia by easel painters. Crucially, these works are situated alongside works in other media in a way that appropriately acknowledges the diversity of Soviet culture – for instance, combining Pavel Filonov’s painting of a female farm manager with Arkadii Shaikhet’s photographs of collective farms.
In the final room stands a melancholy finale. A free-standing chamber contains projected arrest cards of the purged – including many artists, directors and writers – underscoring the sense of dashed dreams. In an adjacent room, Tatlin’s unwittingly tragic “Letatlin”, a winged appendage for a flying man, twirls solemnly in the rotunda, the useless apparatus of a Soviet Icarus casting haunting shadows.
Ultimately, the exhibition provides a multifaceted, if somewhat overwhelming, portrayal of the Utopian bid to fashion a red planet (as specifically depicted in a painting on display by Konstantin Yuon).
Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Fantasy, 1925. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo © 2016, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
America after the fall
By contrast, the American show assembles paintings from America’s lost decade, when the troubled times of the Great Depression witnessed unprecedented unemployment, breadlines, evictions and the ecological calamity of the Dust Bowl.
The exhibition offers a well-chosen sample of paintings that serves as an excellent primer to the assorted styles of the era by familiar and lesser-known artists. There are the sharp-lined industrial scenes of Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth, the elegant abstractions of Georgia O’Keeffe and GLK Morris, the ribald social realism of Reginald Marsh and Paul Cadmus, and respectively optimistic and harrowing tributes to black experience by Aaron Douglas and Joe Jones. The show confirms the substance of American modern painting before abstract expressionism, although a fearsome image by the emergent Jackson Pollock feels like an outlier.
Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930. © The Art Institute of Chicago, friends of American Art Collection, 1930.934

The presence of Grant Wood’s 1930 American Gothic has dominated reviews – and an accompanying text asserts that the work is arguably the most important of the era. Yet this barbed, even uncanny, image of rural folk of uncertain kinship (not really the nostalgic paean to regional folksiness it seems – I heard a young visitor call it “creepy”) is hardly the most representative picture of the Depression. It might just as well have been made in the 1920s. Edward Hopper (whose 1940 Gas, also eerily timeless rather than timely, is on display) and Charles Burchfield had long been exploring such peculiarities of American vernacular idioms.
A more symptomatic image, albeit one less likely to invite countless parodies, is Philip Evergood’s Dance Marathon. This ghoulish vision of desperation shows the weary contestants of the dehumanising competition of the Depression in distorted expressionist forms.
Edward Hopper, Gas, 1940. Collection of Museum of Modern Art , New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund, 1943. Photo © 2016. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence
Different worlds, oddly alike
It is not strictly fair to compare this smaller US exhibition of paintings with the gigantic, multimedia Soviet show. A juxtaposition of the two exhibitions could invite the conclusion that in the 1930s American individualism contrasted with the Soviet mass mind – and such an outlook could easily be countered. But the similarity with which the machine age is idealised in America and Russia is notable – representations of their respective factories and workers are often analogous, though the Russians betrayed a masochistic tendency to fetishise labour.

Arkadii Shaiket, Construction of the Moscow Telegraphic Centre, 1928. Alex Lachmann Collection London. © Arkady Shaikhet, Courtesy of Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York.
There is also synergy in the largely unofficial dialogue between American and Russian cultural figures in the 1930s. An international “red network”, to appropriate the anti-leftist Elizabeth Dilling’s phrase, extended from Moscow to Mexico City, constituting an alternative transatlantic traversal to the “American in Paris” myth, in which New York and Berlin were staging posts in a transnational journey. Americans looked at Russians looking at America with fascination.
And so the recent scandalous communications mark only the latest addition to an intricate, confusing tapestry of exchanges evincing curiosity, emulation, suspicion and conspiracy. At the Royal Academy (shaping up as a leading venue for historically themed exhibitions of revolutionary art), the silent conversations between these American and Russian neighbours tell stories of world-changing narratives in more similar ways than one might imagine.
Barnaby Haran, Lecturer in American Studies, University of Hull
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
- See more at: https://www.mercatornet.com/features/view/american-and-soviet-interwar-art-was-remarkably-similar/19605#sthash.pMBaOcvV.dpuf


April 6, 2017

The increasing number of countries which have legalised same-sex marriage is one of the more marketable arguments in the debate in Australia. Don’t get left behind; don’t be on the wrong side of history. At last count there are about 21 of them.
However, at last count there are about 50 countries where polygamy is legal. As a custom, it is far more deeply established than same-sex marriage, for in Africa and Asia it has been the norm for centuries. If you are eager to be on the right side of history, polygamy is the way to go.
In the current newsletter, we report on a recent article by Australian legal academic Michael Quinlan. He points out that a sizable proportion of the Australian population comes from cultural backgrounds which endorse polygamy. It seems churlish to bestow the blessings of legalisation on same-sex couples while ignoring the wishes of Aboriginals and Muslims. It is a fascinating argument. 

Michael Cook 

Equal to what?
By Michael Cook
If gays and lesbians can marry, Muslims and Aboriginals should be able to have multiple spouses
Read the full article
Will Turkey drive the Greeks ‘into the sea’ again?
By Uzay Bulut
The 1922 genocide that brought the 3,000-year Greek presence on the Aegean shore to an end.
Read the full article
American and Soviet interwar art was remarkably similar
By Barnaby Haran
Americans looked at Russians looking at America with fascination.
Read the full article
Once upon a time: a brief history of children’s literature
By Susan Broomhall, Joanne McEwan and Stephanie Tarbin
Adults have been writing for children for centuries.
Read the full article
Mike Pence’s dining preference is ‘rape culture’?
By Barbara Kay
By that flimsy standard, what isn’t?
Read the full article
Judge Neil Gorsuch deserves confirmation
By Sheila Liaugminas
And virtually everyone in Congress knows it.
Read the full article
What Yale has become
By Carolyn Moynihan
A home for emotionally disturbed adolescents?
Read the full article
Turning psychopaths into nice guys
By Michael Cook
Bioethicists have a novel solution: compulsory moral bioenhancement
Read the full article

MERCATORNET | New Media Foundation 
Suite 12A, Level 2, 5 George Street, North Strathfied NSW 2137, Australia 

Designed by elleston

New Media Foundation | Suite 12A, Level 2, 5 George St | North Strathfield NSW 2137 | AUSTRALIA | +61 2 8005 8605 

American and Soviet interwar art was remarkably similar

No hay comentarios: