David Winton Bell Gallery

Past Exhibitions

September 6, 2008 - October 19, 2008

Views and Re-Views website

Views and Re-Views includes posters, cartoons, photomontages, and postcards spanning more than six decades, from the time of the Russian Civil War (1918–21) into the late Soviet period. The exhibition includes well-known Soviet graphic works, by such artists as Viktor Deni, Dmitri Moor, El Lissitsky, and Gustav Klutsis, as well as lesser-known, but equally compelling works by the Kukryniksy (a three-artist collaborative), Alexander Zhitomirsky, and others. Drawn from an extensive private collection of Soviet propaganda, the exhibition includes more than 160 images. 

Seventeen years after the end of the Soviet Union, Views and Re-Views invites a post-Cold War assessment of Soviet graphic arts. The exhibition suggests that artistic merit may be found in art in the service of political belief and subject to state regulation and that there is a range of stylistic diversity within work that is too often simply (and dismissively) characterized as Socialist Realism. Viewers may also note that with the passage of time it has become possible to see that not all criticisms of the West by Soviet artists are completely spurious or inauthentic."

The dualism of friends and enemies, heroes and villains is apparent throughout the exhibition, stemming both from old Russian culture and from nineteenth- and twentieth-century Marxism. Enemies were both domestic — kulaks, priests, the leaders of the old regime, including the Tsar — and foreign — the nations of the Entente (Britain, France and the United States) and the epic villains of Capitalism. And connections were manufactured between foreign to domestic enemies, ranging from the plausible (Russian capitalism was surely part of European capitalism) to the wildly implausible (Trotsky as a major figure in European Fascism).

Enemies might suddenly emerge as friends under changing circumstances, as when we suddenly find the World War Two troika of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin against the Axis powers. The pantheon of heroes is even more obvious: Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders, the Red Army, emancipated women, poor peasants being proletarianized, Stakhanovite shock workers tripling productive norms for the sake of the community (and Comrade Stalin). But, even heroes could fall: Gregory Zinoviev was purged by Stalin, to say nothing of Trotsky, and is represented as a Fascist lapdog on a Kukryniksy poster displayed in the exhibition

Views and Re-Views is a collaborative endeavor of Brown University’s Library, David Winton Bell Gallery, Cogut Center for the Humanities, and Office of International Affairs.

On closing at the Bell Gallery, the exhibition traveled to the Robert Hull Fleming Museum, University of Vermont; Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University; William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, Storrs; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University

Gallery and Lobby, John Hay Library, Cogut Center for the Humanities, and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library