• From Primitivism to Propaganda

    Date posted: June 15, 2014 Author: mauri
    Gustave Klutsis, Communism MUSIC Americanism, circa 1920. Collage, gouache, and ink on paper. 11 х 8.3 in. Image courtesy of Gallery Shchukin.

    A museum quality exhibition of 35 Russian Constructivist and early modernist works on paper by 16 artists are on view in the main salon of the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park South. Curated from the collection of Marina and Nikolay Shchukin by Matthew Drutt, the show is on view through June 14th, and it is rich with works from this fertile and socially turbulent period of world history.  The show features a marvelous set of costume designs: a fabulous Erté, a striking costume for the Pushkin production of The Golden Cockerel by Natalia Gontchorova, and Smeraldina, a delightful black character wearing curly-toed slippers by an unknown artist.  These costume designs and finely executed studies for propaganda posters and book covers make us realize that they were made in an epoch when the theatre and stage spectacles engaged most people, decades before movie theatres and television in the 50s.  These inventive paintings, drawings, and collages were contemporary and cutting edge, and many retain that vitality from artists working in the pre-digital age.  Suprematist works by Nikolai Suetin, less known to a Western audience, freshly express their idealism.  Designs in red and black on a white field for radio speakers and Communism MUSIC Americanism by Gustav Klutsis arouse admiration and still conjure today some of the revolutionary spirit they invoked a century ago.

    This exhibition is part of a citywide celebration, taking place as part of the 12th Annual Russian Heritage Month, with the participation of the Russian American Foundation. The Shuchkin family has three main branches, and the founders of Gallery Shchukin are from the Siberian branch.  Sergey Shchukin was a textile merchant of the Moscow branch of the family.  His extensive collection of Monets, Matisses and Picassos form the core of the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.

    By L. Brandon Krall


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