Czechoslovak Realism 1948-1989

A new exhibition in Udine, Italy showcases Socialist Realism from the Czech Republic. Collector Francesco Augusto Razetto discovered Socialist Realism while living in Prague.  After rescuing some photos of the Spartakiad (think Soviet olympics) out of the trash, he became intrigued by Soviet art. With Socialist realism out of vogue among Czech citizens, historians and art dealers, he found it relatively easy to build an impressive collection of Soviet painting, sculpture and photography. With this exhibition, Razetto hopes to grow the audience of outsiders like himself, able to appreciate the work without the baggage it carries at home.

Here’s an excerpt from the Prauge Post’s article on the show that sheds some light on Razetto’s perspective:

“Genny di Bert, one of the curators of the exhibition, draws an analogy between the reception of Socialist Realism in the Czech Republic with Fascist art in Italy, saying many of the artists toeing the Communist Party line ‘were perfect artists, but no one cared.’

‘We remembered the reactions people had in Italy to this [fascist] art and we decided to make this exhibition to try and open an opportunity to study and evaluate this [socialist] art, to put the past in contact with the present,” she says. “An artist is a product of his period and its politics. We can’t close our eyes to this period of art and history.’ “

Here, Genny di Bert reminds us that the Futurism of fascist Italy, now admired by western art historians and collectors, was the tool of a destructive regime as well. Often, both in the west and in the former USSR, the tradition of Socialist Realism is discussed as beyond reproach – as a dangerous ideological tool. During the Cold War, western art was set up in opposition to Socialist Realism. Where they had censorship we had freedom of expression, where they had strict academic tradition, we had wild, informal experimentation. Twenty years after the fall of the USSR, however, this opposition is no longer relevant. Art faces a completely different set of threats and challenges. Shows like this one begin the process of reinterpretation and appreciation that has been applied to Futurism and other movements over time.

“Czechoslovak Realism 1948-1989” will run through July 8, at the Villa Manin in Udine, Italy.

Read more at the Prague Post.

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Author: Barry O'Keefe

Artist/printmaker from Richmond, Va

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