Russia Contrasted

Selections from the Laurence and Katherine Doherty Collection

April 27 - June 8, 2015


This group of work bridges the critical time where Socialist Realism which had been the officially sanctioned style of art which dominated Soviet art from the 1930’s to the 1980’s is broken away from and critiqued by the emerging contemporary artists found within Russia.

Socialist Realism was a structured style and content which had been mandated by the state with the purpose of furthering the goals of socialism and communism. The result was a huge body of work by thousands of artists working toward the glory of the Soviet mission. This style shares common ground with Social Realism, an international art movement that drew attention to the everyday conditions of the working classes and the poor, and who were critical of the social structures that maintained these conditions. Both movements steered clear of any reference to modernism as it was perceived as a bourgeois and Imperialist.

With the breaking apart of the greater socialist state; artists like Valenteen Mollishev could create the photograph Last 2000 which captures an old cash register amidst a pile of rubbish as a contrast to the pristine landscapes, similar to Winter in the Urals by Aleksander Roschin. In the etchings of Michael Zavodnov, the country farmer is optimistically idealized and stylistically linked to the Russian art of the miniature. These etchings are in contrast to the photographs of an Old Cossack (unknown artist) and Solitude, which depicts the grim realism of old age, faded glory and abandonment by the state.

Abstraction re-emerges from its political exile during this time and is evident in the cityscapes of Olga Nyekrasova. The lithographs Puskin Street @ Night and The Carpenters Lane are compositions of color and geometry which would have been unacceptable a decade earlier.


This exhibition has been made possible by the generous loan of work from the Laurence and Katherine Doherty collection as part of the 175th. celebration of Bridgewater State University.