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November Visual Arts Calendar

Northwestern University exhibitions and events at Block Museum and Dittmar Gallery

October 25, 2011 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- An exhibition of Soviet art posters and cartoons that is a vivid reminder of the Cold War era; a companion exhibition of pre-Russian Revolution book art; and displays of Russian and American World War II propaganda posters and memorabilia from a famous Russian composer’s 1973 Evanston campus visit will be open to the public through early December.

All are among the fall 2011 exhibitions at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and University Library

The 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 at the Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

“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 to June 15, 2012) will be 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, visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu or call (847) 491-4000.

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

The exhibitions and programs below are part of The Soviet Arts Experience, a 16-month long, Chicago-wide showcase of art 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” through Dec. 4, Block Museum, Main Gallery. Two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, Views and Re-Views” provides a post-Cold War assessment of Soviet graphic arts with posters, cartoons, postcards and photomontages from six decades. It reconsiders the artistic merits and stylistic diversity of art created as state propaganda. The exhibition includes well-known Soviet graphic works by artists Viktor Deni, Dmitri Moor, El Lissitsky and Gustav Klutsis as well as lesser-known but equally compelling work by the Kukryniksy (a three-artist collaborative), Alexander Zhitomirsky and others. The exhibition was organized by the David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University. 

“Tango with Cows: Book Art of the Russian Avant-Garde, 1910–1917,” through Dec. 11, Block Museum, Alsdorf Gallery. The exhibition chronicles the dramatic transformation of book art during the tumultuous years before the Russian Revolution when visual artists and writers collaborated on hand-lithographed publications to convey intense ambivalence about their country’s past, present and future. The exhibition title comes from a book and poem by Russian avant-garde poet Vasily Kamensky. It is organized by the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.


“Theo Leffmann: Weaving A Life into Art,” through Dec. 4, Block Museum, Theo Leffman Gallery. The fiber art of Chicago artist Theo Leffmann (1911-96) evokes the ancient and the exotic, echoing pre-Columbian and non-Western processes and forms with a distinct personal vision. Her 40-year career coincided with a revolution in textile art as the division between “high art” and “craft” diminished. The display of Leffmann’s colorful, richly textured and playful weavings, wall hangings and sculptural objects is drawn from the Block Museum’s permanent collection. The works are generous gifts from her husband Paul Leffmann.


“They Were Fighting for Our Freedom: American and Soviet Propaganda Posters of World War II,” through March 19, University Library. “They Were Fighting for Our Freedom” examines the portrayal of 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. The exhibition is a collaboration of the University Library and the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography/Kunstkamera, St. Petersburg.

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

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


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

“Beyonsense” – An Evening of Sound Poetry, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, Block Museum.

Explore connections between early 20th-century avant-garde Russian poetry and contemporary linguistic experimentations through performances by poets Christian Bok, associate professor of English at the University of Calgary and Ilya Kutik, associate professor of Slavic languages and literature at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Nina Gourianova, associate professor of Slavic languages and literature at Northwestern, will host the event, which is co-sponsored by Northwestern’s departments of English and Slavic languages and literature.

“Tango with Cows” Gallery Talk, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, Block Museum.

Decode the poetry and imagery of the “Tango with Cows” exhibition with Associate Professor Nina Gourianova. Northwestern University students will read from selected poems in the Block exhibition.


The Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston

campus is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Admission is free. The gallery focuses on ethnic cultural art, art by emerging artists, art by or about women, artwork by Northwestern undergraduate and graduate art students and traveling art shows. For information, call the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, e-mail dittmargallery@northwestern.edu or visit www.dittmar.northwestern.edu.

Shelley Gilchrist and Alan Emerson Hicks, “Plastic & Wax: Ad Astra,” through Oct. 31, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. Space and sky link the visually interactive and distinctive works of Evanston artist Shelley Gilchrist and Chicago sculptor Alan Emerson Hicks. Gilchrist is inspired by the natural environment and works with natural materials, such as wood and wax. Hicks recycles and repurposes the plastic rubbish that surrounds us, often using it to create work that references the natural world. Both create works with a strong sense of play manifested in color, pattern and rhythm.

Ryan Hogan and Jaime Raybin, “Suspension,” Nov. 4 through Dec. 11, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. Material-driven installation artists Ryan Hogan and Jaime Raybin work with ambiguous specimen-like forms. Because of the similarities of their work, they decided to show their works together. “Suspension” fuses art and biology and features exclusively self-illuminating work. For more on the artists and their work, visit suspensionexhibition.com. A reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, at the gallery, is free and open to the public.

Topics: Campus Life