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Alexander Rodchenko, Books (Please)! In All Branches of Knowledge

Alexander Rodchenko, Books (Please)! In All Branches of Knowledge (1924), poster reproduction [Frye Art Museum, Seattle WA, Feb 6-Apr 3] Photo: Mark Woods

Agitation and Propaganda:
The Soviet Political Poster 1918-1929

Frye Art Museum
Seattle WA – Feb 6-Apr 3, 2016

Dmitry Moor, Have You Volunteered?

Dmitry Moor, Have You Volunteered? (1920), poster reproduction [Frye Art Museum, Seattle WA, Feb 6-Apr 3] Photo: Mark Woods

In a fascinating turnabout for the Frye and its extensive collection of paintings done in America by exiles from the Soviet Union, director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker has organized this survey of Soviet political posters, some of which are new acquisitions to the permanent collection.

The posters in this exhibit depict a consensus between Soviet artists and the new dictatorship. While Westerners are familiar with the Modernist breakthroughs of artists such as Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky (both considered to have invented abstract art), few are aware of the accomplishments of Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky and Dmitry Moor. The works of these artists, influenced by Russian Orthodox icon painting (direct, frontal imagery) and the painting of the Wanderers (a homegrown Impressionist movement heavily represented at the Frye), suggest that, despite the Revolution, Russians maintained a cultural continuum while pretending to have made radical breaks with the past. Two other Russian-born movements, Suprematism and Constructivism, were also considerable influences.

Bright, appealing and, above all, stridently optimistic, the posters were created to harangue normal citizens, encourage informing on fellow citizens, cover up the state-caused famine in the Ukraine and bolster obedience to the Bolshevik rulers during a period of ongoing civil war. After this golden age of Soviet posters, the artists, designers, poets, composers and architects were ground down, monitored by Communist Party apparatchiks. Their creativity disappeared under Socialist Realism. When one knows about these developments, the posters take on a poignant and tragic dimension that is all the more moving.

Matthew Kangas

Ed Lissitzky, Hit the Whites with the Red Wedge!

Ed Lissitzky, Hit the Whites with the Red Wedge! (1924), poster reproduction [Frye Art Museum, Seattle WA, Feb 6-Apr 3] Photo: Mark Woods


 Sun, Feb 7, 2016