The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, as a part of their 20th Century Russian Masters series, is showing the work of Soviet realist Vasili Nechitailo. Here’s an excerpt from an article by the Star-Tribune:
“Beautifully installed in spacious galleries, the show at first seems merely to celebrate the work and life of a man largely unknown outside his homeland. A much more compelling story emerges, however, thanks to Zavialova’s insightful labels about the hidden tragedies and suppressed conflicts in Russian life during the Soviet era.”
Like much Soviet Realism, Nechitailo’s idealized compositions of labor masked the often brutal reality of Soviet life, particularly in Stalin period. However, even for former soviet citizens who experienced this time firsthand like the museum’s curator Masha Zavialova, the work can be viewed outside of this context.
” ‘Before I just looked at the [Nechitailo] subjects and they were oppressive to me,’ she said. ‘Now, I look at the canvases and brushwork and find them very interesting and they’ve stopped being threatening. They’re just objects of history. Think of your own childhood. It’s completely gone and nowhere to be found. That’s something you understand only with years. It’s the nature of time. Now I love his work.’ ”
The full article from the Star-Tribune is definitely worth checking out. It’s rare in that it neither completely vilifies the Soviet artist who toes the party line, nor glosses over the complicity of much Soviet art in the oppression of the Soviet system.
The show will run through February 27. There is a small gallery of images from the show available on the exhibition website.