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Back in the U.S.S.R

Block Museum and University Library will feature Cold War-era works

August 11, 2011 | by Judy Moore
Russia Poster

EVANSTON, Ill. --- This fall, visitors can take a trip back the Cold War era in a series of exhibitions of 20th-century art from Russia and the Soviet Union at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and University Library.

The museum exhibitions “Views and Re-Views: Soviet Political Posters and Cartoons” (Sept. 20 to Dec. 4) and “Tango with Cows: Book Art of the Russian Avant-Garde, 1910–1917,” (Sept. 23 to Dec. 11) will be on display at the Block Museum, 40 Arts Circle Drive, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. 

The library exhibitions “They Were Fighting for Our Freedom: American and Soviet Propaganda Posters of World War II” (Sept. 20 to March 19, 2012), “Dmitri Shostakovich at Northwestern” (Sept. 20 to March 19, 2012) and “Papering Over Tough Times: Soviet Propaganda Posters of the 1930s” (Nov. 2 through June 15, 2012) will be on display at the University Library, 1970 Campus Drive, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. 

All five exhibitions are free and open to the public. 

The Block Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday; and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The museum is closed on Monday. For more information on the Block, visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu or call (847) 491-4000.

The University Library exhibit is open to the public daily from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information on the Library, visit www.library.northwestern.edu or call (847) 491-7658.

These exhibitions and programs are part of The Soviet Arts Experience, a 16-month-long, Chicago-wide showcase of works by artists who created under (and in response to) the Politburo of the Soviet Union.  Visit www.SovietArtsExperience.org for a full schedule of events.


“Views and Re-Views: Soviet Political Posters and Cartoons” provides a post-U.S.S.R assessment of Soviet graphic arts with more than 160 objects from a private collection. On display Sept. 20 through Dec. 4 in the Main Gallery, “Views and Re-Views” reconsiders the artistic merits and stylistic diversity of work created as state propaganda through posters, cartoons, postcards and photomontages spanning six decades. The exhibition is organized by the David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University.

“Tango with Cows: Book Art of the Russian Avant-Garde, 1910–1917,” on display in the Alsdorf Gallery from Sept. 23 to Dec. 11, chronicles the dramatic transformation of book art during the tumultuous years before the Russian Revolution, as visual artists and writers collaborated on hand-lithographed publications that combined primitive and abstract imagery with absurd poetry to convey intense ambivalence about their country’s past, present and future. The exhibition is organized by the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.


“They Were Fighting for Our Freedom: American and Soviet Propaganda Posters of World War II” examines the portrayal of similar war themes -- courage, strength in numbers, the home front, heroic military traditions, the vile foe -- in the different artistic languages of the United States and the U.S.S.R. “They Were Fighting for Our Freedom” will be on display from Sept. 20 to March 19, 2012. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Library and the Peter the Great Museum/Kunstkamera, St. Petersburg, Russia.

In June of 1973, Northwestern bestowed an honorary degree upon famed Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Organized by the Northwestern Music Library and University Archives, the exhibition “Dmitri Shostakovich at Northwestern,” running Sept. 20 to March 19, 2012, recalls Shostakovich’s visit to campus through original documents and materials, including rare Shostakovich scores published in the Soviet Union.

Drawn from the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, “Papering Over Tough Times: Soviet Propaganda Posters of the 1930s” demonstrates attempts by the Soviet government to inspire, placate, inform and frighten its citizens during an era of massive social engineering. The exhibition can be seen Nov. 2 through June 15, 2012.


The following spring and summer 2011 programs will be at the Block Museum or elsewhere, as noted. Unless indicated, they are free and open to the public. 

• “Early Soviet Cinema,” 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, Block Museum. Block Cinema will present the best filmmaking from the initial years of the Soviet Union, beginning with a newly restored 35 mm print of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 masterpiece, “Battleship Potemkin.” General admission to Block Cinema screenings is $6 for the general public or $4 for Block Museum members, Northwestern faculty, staff and students and individuals aged 65 and older. Visit the Block Museum website at www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/block-cinema or call (847) 491-4000 in the fall for information about more films in this series.

• Block exhibition tours. Block Museum docents will lead free tours of “Views and Re-Views” and “Tango with Cows” at 1 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 1 through Dec. 4. To schedule a group or school tour, e-mail blockeducation@northwestern.edu or visit http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/visit/guided-tours.html.

“The  Soviet Arts Experience on Campus,” noon Tuesday, Sept. 27 and noon Thursday, Sept. 29, University Library and Block Museum. Take a guided tour of the Soviet art exhibitions at the Block and the Library. Tours begin at the Library and end with a coffee reception at the Block. 

“The Nature and Politics of Form in Soviet Posters, 1930–1965,” 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, Block Museum. Christina Kiaer, associate professor of art history at Northwestern University, and Robert Bird, associate professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of Chicago, will reflect on form and meaning in Soviet graphic arts in individual presentations and in dialogue. A reception follows the program.

“Family Day: Tango with Sound,” 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, Block Museum. Visitors can tap into their inner avant-garde artists at this day of experimental poetry performance and handmade books of sound-guided imagery.  Recommended for families with children ages 6 to 12. Admission is free for Block members; and $5 per family for nonmembers. Advance registration at blockeducation@northwestern.edu is required.

Topics: Campus Life, University News