February 22, 2001
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass. - The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, reopening March 3 following an 18-month facility renovation, will inaugurate its new gallery space with "The World Opened Wide: 20th-Century Russian Women Artists from the Collection of Thomas P. Whitney '37," an exhibition of Russian modernist art on view from March 3 through May 13.
Dr. Jill Meredith, director and curator of European art at the Mead Art Museum, and Dr. Darra Goldstein, professor of Russian and chair of the Department of German and Russian at Williams College, are co-curators of this exhibition of 80 paintings, drawings and prints by pioneers of the avant-garde. Dr. Christina Lodder, professor of art history at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, will speak about "An Exemplary Constructivist: Liubov Popova" on Friday, March 30 at 4:30 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium with reception to follow in the Mead Art Museum. Dr. Meredith will give a gallery talk on the exhibition, as part of the Mead's "First Tuesday" lecture series on April 3 at 12:15 p.m. Admission to all events is free and open to the public.
The Russian women artists featured in this exhibition were leading figures in the revolutionary artistic movements of the early 20th century: Neo-Primitivism, Cubo-Futurism, Constructivism and Suprematism. These so-called Amazons of the avant-garde "Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Olga Rozanova and Varvara Stepanova, among others" explored innovative art forms seeking to discover new bases of artistic creation. Each distilled and transformed current western European art styles, yet drew inspiration from national folk traditions, science and technology, poetry and the performing arts. The diversity of their work "from the figural subjects to non-objective abstraction in easel paintings, linocut prints, mixed-media assemblages and artists' books" attests to their bold experiments with traditional and innovative art forms.
These women were trained in art schools; taught in art schools; exhibited in major avant-garde group shows in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Paris; promulgated new art theories; and undertook alternative work in theater and film decor, textiles and clothing design, and the graphic arts. Sympathetic with the radical politics and economic upheaval around them, they advanced the modern social revolution as participants in the new cultural order. Highly visible members of artist couples and avant-garde groups, they valued equal creative and social collaboration with male colleagues as they championed the cause of the "new art."
The exhibition takes its title from Olga Rozanova's 1913 manifesto in which she exhorts her fellow radical artists with the battle-cry: "We want to see this world opened wide!" and declares war on the sentimental, derivative and self-centered perspectives of other Russian artists groups. As Dr. Meredith writes in the catalogue, "Embedded in Rozanova's provocative rhetoric is the challenge to her peers and future generations to value any and all creative paths to produce works that engage and transform the viewer." Among the key pieces in the exhibition are two print portfolios, The Mystical Images of War (1914) by Natalia Goncharova and Olga Rozanova's War (1916), which grapple compellingly with nationalism, technology and civilian atrocities of the First World War. War combines Cubist and Futurist elements as well as trans-rational poetry to express the dislocation and horrific destruction in cities and on battlefields. The exhibition also features important Cubist oil paintings by Liubov Popova and Alexandra Exter, as well as theatrical designs by Exter, Goncharova, and Varvara Stepanova.
"The World Opened Wide" premieres selected works from the recent gift of the art collection of Thomas P. Whitney '37 to Amherst College. It surveys a significant portion of more than 400 objects of Russian art in the Whitney Collection, spanning the late 19th through 20th centuries, including major works by Alexander Rodchenko, Pavel Filonov, Mikhail Larionov, Vladmir Tatlin and Naum Gabo.
Whitney"s art collection has rejoined his extraordinary archives of Russian culture, donated in 1991 to the Amherst Center for Russian Culture at Amherst College. As part of the ongoing collaboration between the Mead Art Museum and the Amherst Center for Russian Culture a portion of this exhibition will be presented at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture. The Amherst Center for Russian Culture Gallery is open weekdays from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. For more information call 413/542-8453 or visit the Website at http://www.amherst.edu/~acrc .
The Mead Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. For information call 413/542-2335 or visit the Website http://www.amherst.edu/~mead.