Poetry or Propaganda?

Evacuation - Yuri Kugach
“Evacuation” – Yuri Kugach 1942

The LA Times recently ran an article addressing the growing popularity of soviet-era realism. The article questions the interest in a movement it condemns as, “glorified renderings of happy, toiling Soviet peasants.”

The Times presents us with the opinions of a few investors and collectors, each with their own understanding of soviet art. At the end of the article, we are left with several different views of what soviet realism could be, and without any means of judging it ourselves. We can find an indication of where to begin looking for answers, however, in an interview with Yuri Kugach, one of the premier artists of the era. Here the article begins to break the surface of the issue; piercing through the dissonant chorus of voices, we hear Kugach insisting that, “the main thing is poetry […] this is the essence of all my work.”

Where in between poetry and propaganda does this movement lie? We’re faced with this question, and for the answer we must turn to the work itself – work with a voice of its own.

link to the article
link to a gallery of Yuri Kugach’s work

A show broadcast on Southern California’s largest public radio station, KCRW, responded to the LA Times article and generally to the boom in soviet art.

link to a transcript of the show


Author: Barry O'Keefe

Artist/printmaker from Richmond, Va

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