September 24, 2010
AMHERST, Mass.—On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the Mead Art Museum opened a new exhibition, Beyond Ideology: Russian Art of the 1960s and 1970s from the Collection of Thomas P. Whitney, Class of 1937. This installation of 12 paintings, drawings and prints by leading Russian artists—including Erik Bulatov, Ernst Neizvestnyi and Mikhail Shemiakin, among others—offers a glimpse into Russia’s unofficial art world under the Soviet regime.
Bettina Jungen, the Thomas P. Whitney (Class of 1937) Curator of Russian Art, will present a gallery talk on Thursday, Oct. 14, at 4:30 p.m. that will introduce the exhibition and the complex world in which the pieces were created. The installation is supported by the Julia A. Whitney Fund for Russian Art and the Amherst Fund for the Whitney Collection of Russian Art.
From 1932 through the late 1980s, Socialist Realism was the only officially approved art in the Soviet Union. After Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953, his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, launched a new policy temporarily relieving the tension between the official and alternative art forms. The new atmosphere triggered an independent art movement, the so-called Thaw from 1956 to1962. During these years it existed in the public sphere; after 1962 the authorities banned it from official and publicly accessible places. Since liberality was very limited at all times, many artists, including Bulatov, Neizvestnyi and Shemiakin preferred to leave the country in order to pursue their artistic careers without interference.
Among the young Russian artists, nonfigurative movements were popular, but style was not their common denominator. It was rather the wish to express one’s subjective experience and create an alternative reality completely separated from the official art world. Therefore, many styles simultaneously coexisted in the 1960s and 1970s. The Mead installation features a broad range of these styles, including Primitivism, figurative abstraction, Surrealism and geometrical abstraction.
The exhibition also marks the 70th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Brodsky, the Nobel Prize-winning Russian-American poet whose ideals and life circumstances correspond closely to those of the artists presented. For more information about Brodsky, please visit sycamoreshouse.org.
The Mead Art Museum houses the art collection of Amherst College, totaling more than 16,000 works. An accredited member of the American Association of Museums, the Mead participates in Museums10, a regional cultural collaboration. During the academic term, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to midnight and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, please visit the museum’s Web site, www.amherst/museums/mead, or call 413/542-2335.