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Exhibitions

  • EXH: הימל און ערד/ Himl un erd/ Yiddish Cosmos

    EXH:  הימל און ערד/  Himl un erd/  Yiddish Cosmos

    הימל און ערד

    Himl un erd

    Yiddish Cosmos

    Exhibition by Yevgeniy Fiks Sunday November 18–Sunday December 16, 2018 Opening Reception Sunday November 18th 6–9pm

    Music by Miryem-Khaye Seigel and Ilya Shneyveys at 7:30 pm

    RSVP here for the opening

    Produced by Victoria Anesh and Mordecai Walfish

    For More Information contact Victoria Anesh at victoria.anesh@gmail.com or 917-498-7987.

    The Exhibit will be Open to the Public Sundays from 1–6pm, Mondays & Wednesdays from 4–7 pm, November 18–December 16.

    Special artist-led exhibition tour on Sunday, December 16th at 4pm.

    Address Stanton Street Shul 180 Stanton Street New York, NY 10002

    What does the Soviet Space program have to do with Yiddish culture? Multidisciplinary artist Yevgeniy Fiks presents Heaven and Earth (Yiddish Cosmos), an exhibition that uncovers the surprising connections between the Eastern-European Jewish experience, futurist utopianism, and the Soviet space program. In this exhibition, Fiks forges a speculative narrative of Yiddish culture based on ideas of daring imagination, universality, and scientific progress.

    Mixing fact and fiction, Yiddish Cosmos evokes 20th century futuristic utopianism and the practical achievements of space science from an Eastern European Jewish perspective. Artist Yevgeniy Fiks speculates on the idea of Cosmos and how in the Soviet context it would become the epitome of the Homeland for a diasporic people. If the 20th century Eastern European Jewish narrative is one of longing for universalism and scientific progress, it is Cosmos as a “homeland” that most perfectly embraces those dreams.

    Featuring works on paper, objects, and archival materials, Fiks uses this exhibition to explore real and imaginary connections between an invented language of interplanetary communication and the Yiddish language, all the while juxtaposing the Soviet space program’s imagery with Soviet Jewish community and Yiddish culture.

    About the Artist Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972 and has been living and working in New York since 1994. Fiks has produced numerous projects on the subject of the Post-Soviet dialog in the West. Fiks’ work has been shown internationally. This includes exhibitions in the United States at Winkleman and Postmasters galleries (both in New York), Mass MoCA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Marat Guelman Gallery in Moscow; Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City, and the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon.

    About the Exhibition Site Stanton Street Shul is one of the few tenement shuls still left of the 700 LES congregations. Stanton Street Shul is the first American home of Congregation Bnai Jacob Anshe Brzezan (“Sons of Jacob, People of Brzezan”). Incorporated in 1893, the community of Jewish immigrants from the town of Brzezan in Southeast Galicia, (formerly Austria-Hungary, then Poland, now Ukraine), created their place of worship from an existing structure on the site in 1913, within a thriving Lower East Side Jewish community. The shul has since changed with the neighborhood, but has struggled to preserve its old country roots.

  • EXH: PEASANTS, CLANS, AND EFFERVESCENT ABSOLUTISTS!

    EXH: PEASANTS, CLANS, AND EFFERVESCENT ABSOLUTISTS!

    Tuesday, September 4, 2018 to Thursday, October 18, 2018 Harriman Institute Atrium, 12th Floor International Affairs Building (420 W 118th St) Exhibit runs September 4 – October 18, 2018. Exhibit hours are Monday–Friday, 9:00AM – 5:00PM excluding university holidays.

    Artist Anne Bobroff-Hajal has a PhD in Russian History and is the author of the scholarly volume Working Women in Russia Under the Hunger Tsars. Her extensively researched polyptychs are satirical commentaries on how Russia’s ruling elites have historically taken advantage of their unique geographic situation to amass and maintain power. She means for her art to honor and serve the dispossessed and forgotten.

    Bobroff-Hajal’s work draws formally on the similarities among icons, political cartoons, animation storyboards, and graphic novels, all of which tell stories in pictures. Her tales are told across centuries to the Infant Stalin by three tsarist godparents: Ivan IV, Catherine the Great, and Peter the Great. Each polyptych is “narrated” via the artist’s original lyrics set to the tune of Kalinka, in a series of tableaux which viewers “read” through numbered frames or simply from left to right. Bobroff-Hajal’s goal is to beguile viewers to identify and engage with forces that have shaped power structures in Russia and other parts of the world.

    Intellectually, Bobroff-Hajal’s work brings together disparate fields’ analyses of Russia: historians of ideology who have observed Russian elites’ centuries-old use of the threat of invasion to unify the country behind an autocratic leader; global history scholars like Perry Anderson who wrote that “Eastern Absolutism…was the price of [Russians’] survival in a civilization of unremitting territorial warfare;” geographers who have described Russia as “the least defensible country on earth” because of its vast flatland steppes devoid of natural barriers to invasion. Putin today is only the most recent Russian ruler to manipulate threat of invasion across the plains to support extreme appropriation of wealth and power from the populace for the benefit of ruling elites.

    Bobroff-Hajal’s 110-page fully illustrated catalogue is now published online, with extensive historical analysis and info about her artistic process. Please click here to access the catalogue. For best results view using the “full screen” function.

    Historian J. Arch Getty wrote,

    Anne Bobroff-Hajal’s art combines deep historical knowledge with humor and artistic talent that speaks to audiences ranging from school children to professors. I cannot imagine a more distinctive and iconoclastic combination. In her formidable painting of Ivan IV, his stern face conveys a series of meanings, and the postures of his underlings depict patronage and clan relationships that reflect the latest historical research on the 16th century. Her paintings of Stalin with Bolshevik patronage clans show a similar skill and informed artistry that also capture recent research. Her Catherine the Great, who ‘flies’ by means of stilt-walking serfs hoisting her and her heavy decorative gold wings, does more, and more vividly than many books on Catherine. The whimsical style of her work allows it (like icons of old) to tell stories on many levels, ranging from the nearly comic to an accomplished complexity. Her work is truly unique and deserves a wide audience.

    From the artist:

    “I’ve been asked how I can bear to spend so much time painting brutality and horrors. I do it because art—with its color, beauty, satire, story, whimsy—is the tool we humans have to lift us from despair as we investigate the sources of atrocities so as to combat them in the future.

    How do elites—not only in Russia, but the world over—amass the power to do such terrible things to less powerful people? What are the resources rulers use to accumulate power? How do they exploit those resources to maintain their omnipotence? How have some some regions of the world been able to wield dominion over other regions?

    Russian absolutism, as historian Perry Anderson observed, not only began earlier than in Europe, it “outlived all its contemporaries, to become the only Absolutist State in the continent to survive intact into the 20th century.” The 1917 collapse of the Tsarist autocracy was followed a decade after the Bolshevik Revolution by the rising Joseph Stalin’s “Communist” autocracy. That in turn collapsed in the 1990s, to be followed a decade later by the rise of a new autocrat-in-the-making, Vladimir Putin. Why do distinctive historic cycles recur in each region of the globe, and how can they be broken?

    I believe that each land’s distinct geography presents singular opportunities for elites to build and sustain power. In particular, Russia is by far the planet’s largest flat landscape. Geographers have called Russia the least defensible terrain on earth because of its lack of natural barriers against hugely powerful neighbors. My art explores the web of interconnections between Russia’s unique geography—both natural and human—and its rulers, clans, and laboring classes. I paint the social system Russia’s geography gives rise to, the elites it empowers, and hundreds of tiny portraits of individual people straining to achieve their goals within that system.

    It may seem obsessional to paint so many three-inch-high portraits in such a time-intensive way, often using a magnifying glass to paint each face and detail. But I create art to honor and hopefully serve the dispossessed and forgotten. My goal is for my art to delight viewers to identify forces that have shaped varying power structures in different parts of the world, in order to illuminate how they might create change within their own.”

  • EXH: From Non-Conformism to Feminisms: Russian Women Artists from the Kolodzei Art Foundation at the Museum of Russian Art (TMORA), September 15, 2018 – February 10, 2019

    EXH: From Non-Conformism to Feminisms: Russian Women Artists from the Kolodzei Art Foundation at the Museum of Russian Art (TMORA), September 15, 2018 – February 10, 2019

    From Non-Conformism to Feminisms: Russian Women Artists from the Kolodzei Art Foundation at the Museum of Russian Art (TMORA), 5500 Stevens Ave S. Minneapolis, Minnesota 55419, September 15, 2018 – February 10, 2019

    The project Non-Conformism to Feminisms: Russian Women Artists from the Kolodzei Art Foundation is a selection from the Kolodzei Collection of Russian and Eastern European Art, covering three generations of artists, from the 1960’s to the present. The show includes paintings, works on paper, photography, video, and interactive installations. Arranged thematically, the exhibition features the work of emerging, mid-career and established artists. It is a visual exploration of the development and accomplishments of women artists from Russia emphasizing the importance of media experimentation for contemporary Russian women artists in defining their identity.

    The first generation consists of artists who began their careers at the time of Khrushchev’s “Thaw” of the 1950’s and took part in the first, crucial, unofficial exhibitions of the 1970’s, including Lydia Masterkova, Valentina Kropivnitskaya, Tatiana Levitskaia, Natalia Shibanova, and Rimma Gerlovina. The next generation includes artists who participated in the initial exhibitions and others who became involved in the early 1980’s, including Natalia Nesterova, Tatyana Nazarenko, Olga Bulgakova, Anna Birshtein, Natalia Abalakova, Lusy Voronova, Diana Vouba, Svetlana Kalistratova, and Valentina Lebedeva-Lesin. The latest generation is made up of artists whose works date from post-perestroika and post-Soviet period from the late 1980’s to the present, including Irina Danilova, Natalia Kamenetskaia, Alexandra Dementieva, Alla Esipovich, Marina Koldobskaya, Tatiana Antoshina, Irene Caesar, Elena Kallistova, Marina Kolotvina, Victoria Kovalenchikova, Natalia Elkonina, Dorothee Chemiakine, Marina Karpova, Anna Frants, Tatiana Krol, Elena Gubanova, Ludmila Belova, Olga Tobreluts, Aidan Salakhova, Katya Filippova, Elena Sarni, Svetlana Martinchik, Marina Gertsovskaya, Alena Anosova, Marina Chernikova, Innessa Levkova-Lamm, Olga Lamm, Tatiana Daniliyants, Julia Winter, and Natalia Sitnikova.

    Though an exhibition like this one can show only a fraction of what is being done by Russian women artists, we hope this show will encourage viewers to find out more about the world of Russian Art. Today, by analyzing works by Russian women artists from positions of gender discourse, we can find unique forms of expression. Gender-based research allows us to have a new view of non-conformist art, finding in its stories yet another subject of inquiry. The project >From Non-Conformism to Feminisms: Russian Women Artists from the Kolodzei Art Foundation is designed to generate public awareness of Russian women in art, and to empower women artists to pursue their calling. #NonConformismToFeminisms

    The Kolodzei Art Foundation, Inc., a US-based 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public foundation started in 1991, organizes exhibitions and cultural exchanges in museums and cultural centers in the United States, Europe and Russia, often utilizing the considerable resources of the Kolodzei Collection, and publishes books on Russian art. The Kolodzei Collection of Russian and Eastern European Art is one of the world’s largest collections, consisting of over 7,000 works by more than 300 artists from Russia and the former Soviet Union. For more information, visit http://www.kolodzeiart.org.

    The Museum of Russian Art is conveniently located at the intersection of 35W and Diamond Lake Road in South Minneapolis. Open daily; free parking lot available. For more information, visit TMORA.org, or call 612-821-9045.

  • EXH: Erosion: Works by Leonard Ursachi

    EXH: Erosion: Works by Leonard Ursachi

    Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce its latest exhibition, Erosion: Works by Leonard Ursachi on view from July 15–November 18, 2018. In this exhibition featuring an outdoor sculpture, installation work, and related maquettes and drawings, Leonard Ursachi addresses themes of environmental and social crises caused by manmade events and reflects on how the destruction of natural resources is intimately interconnected with the effacement of human history and culture. What a Wonderful World (2018), a large-scale sculpture installed in Hebrew Home’s sculpture garden overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades, touches on the inextricable link between profitability and the destruction of the environment. Expanses of 23-karat gold leaf applied to the roughly textured, “tarred” oceans reference a global, often wealth-driven disregard for the impact of environmental choices. The continents, on the other hand, appear vast and devoid of life, signifying a stripping away of natural resources. Still, Ursachi’s vision implies hope: the sculpture’s egg shape may be read as the enduring, if fragile, potential for life.

    Also included in the exhibition is Rise and Shine (2010), a multi-media work that addresses the disappearance of the Romanian island of Ada Kaleh, which was submerged in the Danube River in 1970 by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu in order to build a hydroelectric plant. Inside an aquarium-like receptacle, a model of the island cast from translucent urethane resin is lit from below, alternately drowned and resuscitated as water continuously rises and falls. The work addresses the disastrous effect such industrial projects have on human culture, displacing entire populations and literally washing away layers of history. The piece engages environmental themes and reflects the unchecked destruction that can occur under tyranny. Ceaușescu’s rule was one of the most brutal in the Eastern Bloc, with his secret police force routinely torturing and imprisoning suspected dissenters and political enemies. Ursachi was arrested for attempting to escape Romania by swimming across the Danube—near the spot where Ada Kaleh once stood—to reach Yugoslavia in 1978. His second attempt to defect, in 1980, was successful, and he was granted political asylum in France where he spent five years. He came to the United States via Canada and settled in New York in 1987.

  • EXH: First U.S. Museum Retrospective of Soviet Nonconformist Artist Leonid Lamm

    EXH: First U.S. Museum Retrospective of Soviet Nonconformist Artist Leonid Lamm

    New Brunswick, NJ – With such rapid advances in digital tools, we sometimes find ourselves lamenting about artists who were ahead of their time, guessing what Leonardo could have done with a jet engine or Warhol, with Instagram. Regarding Soviet nonconformist artist Leonid Lamm (1928–2017), however, we do not have to wonder. With a career spanning 70 years, technology caught up to his artistic vision and he became one of the most surprising and versatile artists in the history of Soviet nonconformist and contemporary Russian-American art. Nevermore: Leonid Lamm, Selected Works, on view through September 30 at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, examines his prolific career, which was stimulated by a lifelong inquiry into the multidimensional energy of space. More than 60 works on view represent three key periods: his early decades in the Soviet Union, the period following his move to the United States in the 1980s, and his incorporation of digital formats in more recent years. Free, public events that spotlight the exhibition include an evening reception on March 9 and Art After Hours: First Tuesdays on June 5. Details are available at www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu.

  • EXH: Hot Art in a Cold War - Exhibition and Programming

    EXH: Hot Art in a Cold War - Exhibition and Programming

    Hot Art in a Cold War: Intersections of Art and Science in the Soviet Era
    January 27, 2018 - May 20, 2018
    Opening on January 27, 2018, the Bruce Museum’s provocative new exhibition Hot Art in a Cold War: Intersections of Art and Science in the Soviet Era examines one of the dominant concerns of Soviet unofficial artists—and citizens everywhere—during the Cold War: the consequences of innovation in science, technology, mathematics, communications, and design. Juxtaposing art made in opposition to state-sanctioned Socialist Realism with artifacts from the Soviet nuclear and space programs, Hot Art in a Cold War touches upon the triumphs and tragedies unleashed as humankind gained the power to both leave the Earth and to destroy it.

    Produced from the 1960s to the 1980s, the works on view address themes of international significance during a turbulent period marked by the ever-escalating competition for nuclear supremacy and the space race. Creative interpretations of these key historical events and their repercussions are presented here through nearly 40 works by 17 artists from the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, and Russia.

  • EXH: In Edenia, a City of the Future

    EXH: In Edenia, a City of the Future

    In Edenia, a City of the Future June 8 – July 9, 2017 Opening: June 8, 18.00

    In Edenia, a City of the Future is an art exhibition inspired by a Yiddish language utopian novella of the same name, published by Kalman Zingman in Kharkiv in 1918. Nearly one hundred years later, artist Yevgeniy Fiks invited an international group of contemporary artists to read the novella and create an artwork as if from the museum of the imaginary city of Edenia. The exhibition presents the artists’ different visions as an invitation to look at our dreams from various angles, to take note of their colors, intonations, forms and rhythms.

    Zingman’s Edenia (a projection of Kharkiv 25 years into the future) is serviced by “aerotrains” and fountains that keep the temperature at a comfortable level yearround; it is a place where ethnic communities live side-by-side in peace and harmony. The protagonist of the story, returned to his native city from Palestine, makes a stop in the art museum: “He … looked at the figure sculptures of Kritsenshteyn, Lisitski and Roza Fayngold, then he went to the top level. The door closed behind him, and he looked for a very long time, thought for a long time, and got lost in his ruminations.”

    At a time when many Ukrainians are divided in their respective idealizations of the Soviet past as a golden era of social justice or the European Union as the promise of a future utopia, “In Edenia, a City of the Future” (based on a novella written in a language that has practically disappeared from Ukraine) invites the public to examine the country’s multicultural history and its early Soviet dreams/nightmares in light of present-day political challenges and potentialities. We urge visitors to think critically about the appeal and comfort of a utopian dream, while simultaneously remembering past actions taken in the name of making an ideal image of society a reality. How many of these dreams and arguments are we still repeating today?

    At the same time, we acknowledge the utopian nature of the very project of 21stcentury contemporary art, where visibility (as revelation) has come to replace the visionary projects of the past.

    Curators: Larissa Babij (Ukraine / US) and Yevgeniy Fiks (US / Russia)

    Participating Artists: Ifeoma Anyaeji (Nigeria) Babi Badalov (France / Azerbaijan) Concrete Dates Collective (Ukraine) Curandi Katz (Italy / Canada) Sasha Dedos (Ukraine) Aikaterini Gegisian (UK / Greece) Tatiana Grigorenko (US / France) Creolex centr (Ruthie Jenrbekova & Maria Vilkovisky) (Kazakhstan) Nikita Kadan (Ukraine) Kapwani Kiwanga (Canada / France) Yuri Leiderman (Ukraine / Germany) Mykola Ridnyi (Ukraine) Haim Sokol (Russia / Israel) Agnès Thurnauer (France / Switzerland) Exhibition designer: Ivan Melnychuk (Ukraine) Publishing partner: STAB (School of Theory and Activism – Bishkek) (Kyrgyzstan) Supported by Asylum Arts Special thanks to Dr. Gennadiy Estraikh

    Open Tuesday–Sunday, 12.00 – 20.00 Yermilov Center Svobody Square, 4 Kharkiv, Ukraine Tel: +380 95 801 30 83, +380 57 760 47 13 www.yermilovcentre.org

    The exhibition will involve several public events, including guided tours with the exhibition curators, meetings with participating artists, and a talk with American historian Mayhill C. Fowler, a scholar of the multi-ethnic history of the early Ukrainian SSR and author of “Beau Monde on Empire’s Edge : State and Stage in Soviet Ukraine.” Please check www.yermilovcentre.org for details.

    About the curators: Yevgeniy Fiks is a Russian-American artist, who has been living and working in New York since 1994. His artistic practice, which includes making artworks, exhibitions, books, often seeks out and explores repressed micro-historical narratives that highlight the complex relationships between social histories of the West and the Soviet bloc in the 20th century. To learn more, please see http://yevgeniyfiks.com/

    Larissa Babij grew up in the USA and has been living and working in Kyiv as an independent curator, writer and translator since 2005. Her work focuses on the representation of Ukrainian contemporary artists in the English-speaking world, organizing contemporary art projects (usually in collaboration with artists) in Ukraine, and critical discussion of current cultural conditions.

  • ANN: The Trees Elude Us: Russian / Soviet Modernity and What Happens with Nature

    ANN: The Trees Elude Us: Russian / Soviet Modernity and What Happens with Nature

    DISTINGUISHED LECTURE AND RECEPTION

    The Trees Elude Us: Russian / Soviet Modernity and What Happens with Nature

    Dr. Jane Coslow, Clark A. Griffith Professor of Environmental Studies at Bates College, Lewiston, Maine Thursday, April 20 / 4:30 to 6:30 pm Free and open to the public

    The Trees Elude Us explores some of the ways in which Russian artists and writers have responded to modernity and its impacts on the natural world – and on human relations to the more-than-human. Cognizant of what Varlam Shalamov called “the hurried, predatory leap” of Soviet modernization, Dr. Costlow offers some reflections on how creative imagination has worked as witness, celebrant and fierce protectress of a nature that is always more than mere resource for human needs.

    This program is offered in conjunction with A Vibrant Field: Nature and Landscape in Soviet Nonconformist Art, 1970s-1980s.

    A reception follows the lecture.

    71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ.

    www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu

  • EXH: A Vibrant Field: Nature and Landscape in Soviet Nonconformist Art, 1970s-1980s Exhibition Opening

    EXH: A Vibrant Field: Nature and Landscape in Soviet Nonconformist Art, 1970s-1980s Exhibition Opening

    A Vibrant Field: Nature and Landscape in Soviet Nonconformist Art, 1960s-1980s is the first exhibition at the Zimmerli Art Museum to explore the wide range of meanings that the natural world held for unofficial artists in the Soviet Union. Drawn from the strengths of the Dodge Collection, the exhibition brings together works produced in the period between thaw and perestroika that challenged the link between nature, optimism, and progress, which socialist realist aesthetics had promoted. Approximately fifty objects across media are featured, including painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, and performance, by more than twenty-five artists and artist groups from the Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine. Despite the artists’ diverse backgrounds and creative approaches, together their works establish nature as a vibrant subject matter, push the boundaries of landscape as a genre, and limit the appropriation of landscape imagery in the name of socialist ideology. In turn, the status of nature in late socialism, and one’s individual or collective place within it, is explored as an open–and vital–question.

    A Vibrant Field assembles varied perspectives, vantage points, and orientations that underlie how one experiences nature, both in the physical sense of navigating nature as a real environment and in the conceptual sense of coming to know, describe, represent, or assign it with symbolic value. The exhibition is mapped along three principle zones of inquiry. The first, Visions, draws together work that takes to task the process of visualizing spaces in nature in order to elucidate, reimagine, or critique how humans relate to or inhabit them. In this section, particular attention is paid to works that highlight ecological concerns resulting from the exploitation of natural resources and rapid pursuit of industrialization in the Soviet Union. In Reflections, artists place less emphasis on the material landscapes in nature than on how they become a picture and the role of artistic convention, memory, and ideology in mediating this process. Finally, Encounters considers the emergence of land art and performance-based practices in nature in the 1970s and 1980s that provided a freer alternative to urban communality, ritual, and public space in the Soviet Union. Through their direct encounters with the land, artists in this section approach nature not only as a subject matter or a backdrop to their work, but in some cases as an actor or co-producer.

    Organized by Anna Rogulina, a Dodge-Lawrence Fellow at the Zimmerli and Ph.D. student in the Department of Art History at Rutgers

    The exhibition and brochure are made possible by the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund, The Thickman Family Foundation, and the Dodge Charitable Trust – Nancy Ruyle Dodge, Trustee.

    Related Programs

    Wednesday, March 29 / Tour, Film, and Reception 4:30pm: Tour of A Vibrant Field by the exhibition curator, Anna Rogulina 5:30pm: Screening of the 2015 award-winning documentary film Babushkas of Chernobyl.

    Thursday, April 20 / Distinguished Lecture and Reception 4:30-6:30pm: Dr. Jane Costlow, Clark A. Griffith Professor of Environmental Studies at Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, explores the subject of nature imaginaries in Soviet literature and visual culture.

  • EXH: A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde

    EXH: A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde

    A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde; curated by Roxana Marcoci and Sarah Suzuki with Hillary Reder; Museum of Modern Art, NYC, through March 12

    Review by Roann Barris, Radford University

    One might be excused for thinking that the entry sign to the exhibition is one of the art works in the show. The assertive, sans serif lettering, which increases in scale, and the angled parallelogram with a circle at its end, speak to the dynamic sense of velocity created by the art of the Russian avant-garde. This economy of design is also seen in El Lissitzky’s cover of Wendingen: barely four forms, two lines, and the title angled between the lines and oriented in the same direction as the grey rectilinear slab. The thin lines continue from the front cover to the back. Indeed, one of the most exciting features of this exhibition is the ample inclusion of such print works, which also includes an array of LEF magazine covers, books designed by Lissitzky, and illustrations by Olga Rozanova. Of course, one cannot overlook the wall of marvelous movie posters by the Stenberg brothers or the room of movies where the films of Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, and others, are continuously projected.

    Upon entering the exhibition, two things are especially striking: first, the extent of MoMA’s holdings in Russian art is a veritable history of the avant-garde. Simply stunning in its depth and quality, much of it is never on view. We know that Alfred Barr began collecting Russian art on his trip to Russia in the late 1920s, but less widely known is the degree to which this collection continued to grow throughout the twentieth century. A second and equally strong impression is one of synergy. Regardless of medium and artist, there is a recognizable direction of development. There is nothing random or haphazard about the evolution of Constructivism and Suprematism. Yet, isn’t this how we tend to think of it: as an avant-garde that is not held together by style because the artists affirmed that they were against style? Perhaps this show teaches us that style in this case refers to an attitude about velocity, angularity, a sense of dynamism, and most important, about the communication of ideas through composition.

    The New York Times art critic, Roberta Smith, welcomed this show for another, but equally important, reason. In her December 9 assessment of the exhibition, she noted the role of this exhibition as marking a revolutionary change in how the Museum of Modern Art chooses to display its art. Thus, she concludes that a second revolutionary impulse can be observed–-one which, in this case, suggests an approach to exhibitions that is broad, pulls on the entire collection of the Museum, and enables visitors to see just how the synergy I described previously characterized this moment in Russian art.

    The graphic design media may be the most impressive works of all. Although they are not likely to look very different in real life, rarely do we have the opportunity to see so many copies of the radical LEF journal laid out in one place at the same time. Another high point is seeing so many works by one artist together on a single wall or filling a room – the Lissitzky Proun room, for example, and the wall of prints by Lyubov Popova. The individual works may not be newly surprising (although in Popova’s case, they are), but it increases their resonance when so many are seen together. Surely, the artists themselves were aware of this effect as they worked in series.

    A viewer unfamiliar with Russian art is in for an exciting surprise. The visitor who has devoted years to studying this period will also be surprised in a different way – namely by that feature of resonance and the almost dizzying profusion of seeing so many works of Russian art in one place.

    -

    A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde is on view at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017.

    Roann Barris, a professor of art history and Art Department chair, has long been interested in Russian theater and graphic design. Not long ago, she returned to Moscow where she reexamined the materials she had used in her doctoral research on Russian constructivism, and revised much of what she had originally believed.