Nearly twenty years after the demise of the Soviet Union, the Fleming Museum
brings to Vermont an extraordinary collection of Soviet graphic arts. The exhibition Views and Reviews: Soviet Political Posters and Cartoons opens at the Fleming Museum on Friday, January 29 and presents a stunning array of images spanning more than six decades from the time of the Russian Civil War (1918-1921) - during which period the Bolsheviks and their western-backed opponents struggled for control of the new state - to the late Soviet period.
The images in the exhibition evoke an imagined world of heroes and enemies, set against an historical backdrop of brutality and intense human yearning. Heroes included Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders, Stalin, the Red Army, and emancipated women. Enemies existed both within the country and outside of its borders, in the West. Some were perennial enemies - priests, landowners, Mensheviks, Tsar Nicholas, capitalists, and the Entente (Britain, France, and the U.S.). Others changed from enemy to friend or friend to enemy with shifting political or economic situations.
Organized by the David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University, and drawn from an extensive private collection of Soviet propaganda, this exhibition includes posters, cartoons, and photomontages. It suggests that artistic merit may be found in the service of political belief even when subject to state regulation, and demonstrates stylistic diversity within works that are often characterized as Socialist Realism. It also exposes uncomfortable truths in Soviet views of the United States that can be evaluated anew, with historical distance.
Propaganda in the Soviet Union took many forms. As a complement to this exhibition, we are featuring a sampling of Soviet pins -"wearable propaganda"- collected by a 1989 UVM alumna. Ranging in theme from political leaders to the celebration of anniversaries, cultural landmarks, great harvests, Soviet holidays, and major Soviet achievements, these pins present not only intriguing subject matter, but their small, yet strong designs and bold color make them a perfect counterpoint to the dramatic propaganda posters on display.