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'Kino/Film: Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen' opens at GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design
Stenberg Brothers, Battleship Potemkin, 1925. Courtesy GRAD and Antikbar Christie’s Images Limited [2012].
LONDON.- GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design in collaboration with Antikbar presents ‘Kino/Film: Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen’. As the UK/Russia year of culture begins, this exciting exhibition examines the golden age of Soviet film posters and is co-curated by Elena Sudakova, director of GRAD, and film critic and art historian Lutz Becker.

The 1920s saw the advent of new and radical graphic design created to advertise silent films across the Soviet Union. Film posters of this era have become masterpieces in their own right, produced at a time when innovative on-screen techniques were being incorporated into the design of advertisements. Some 30 works by the brothers Georgii and Vladimir Stenberg, Yakov Ruklevsky, Aleksandr Naumov, Mikhail Dlugach and Nikolai Prusakov, will be on display.

During the mid- to late-1920s cinema flourished in the Soviet Union. A relatively new art form, film matched the revolutionary ethos of an emerging generation of artists for whom fine art was deemed bourgeois. The advantages of using film as a propaganda tool for the largely illiterate masses were not lost on the government, who supported the burgeoning film industry. A state-controlled organisation, Sovkino, managed the distribution of foreign films, including those from the US which were very popular; profits were used to subsidise domestic film production. These Soviet films soon gained an international reputation through feature-length masterworks such as Battleship Potemkin.

Under the umbrella of Sovkino, Reklam Film was the department that controlled the production of film posters across the USSR and at its helm was designer Yakov Ruklevsky, who engaged a number of talented young artists. They created a whole new visual vocabulary for film posters, both foreign and domestic, incorporating the practices they saw on-screen. As the films were black and white, the designers employed their artistic licence to great effect, using vivid colour blocking and dynamic typographical experiments to capture the essence of each production, sometimes without having even seen it. The result is a body of work which is both powerful and enduring.

To accompany the exhibition GRAD will host screenings to showcase the innovative techniques employed by the poster artists and film-makers of this era. Excerpts of seminal films , among them October, The End of St Petersburg or Storm Over Asia, will highlight the symbiotic relationship between the pioneering vision of directors such as Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin and the output of the poster artists engaged to promote them. Techniques such as cinematic montage, repetition, asymmetric viewpoints and dramatic foreshortenings were used in the creation of both the films and the posters, leading to the appearance of a distinctive and highly influential body of design. Mass produced during the 1920s, the posters were made for one use only and few originals survive. The exhibition at GRAD is a rare opportunity to see these seminal works, many of which have not been exhibited in the UK before.



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