(K. Brent Tomer),
ALTHOUGH it marks the centenary of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, this exhibition’s true inspiration is 1932. In that year, a vast retrospective entitled “Fifteen Years of Artists of the Russian Soviet Republic” took place in the Russian State Museum in Leningrad. Curated by Nikolai Punin, an avant-garde luminary, it was meant to be the zenith of the radical artistic current that had been growing in Russia for decades. Instead, it was a swansong. Within years, many of the thousands of paintings featured would disappear into hidden store cupboards, trampled beneath the inescapable march of state-backed socialist realism. Punin himself, accused of “anti-Soviet activity”, was to die, starving, in a desolate gulag north of the Arctic Circle.
“Revolution: 1917-1932” covers the same 15 years as Punin’s show. The period has suffered some neglect. The myth goes that in the years after the Bolshevik revolution, bland socialist realism stomped on the avant-garde. In fact, after the revolution but before Stalinism tightened its grip on culture, there was a frenzied gasp of creative brilliance. Artistic, technological and political innovations clashed and…Continue reading