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Russian Life in Posters 1930s-1980s

Posters by Pavel Semyachkin, Grigory Goncharov, Solomon Boim, Lev Korchemkin, Dmitry Pyatkin, Alexey Kurmanaevsky

19.09.2009 — 11.10.2009

Preview — 18.09.2009

In the twentieth century art of political posters anywhere in the world was not as important as in the USSR. Revolution, Civil War, industrialization, collectivization, construction, the Great Patriotic War, the new Сonstitution, the Congresses of the CPSU decisions, socialist competition… All these topics required immediate promotion and implementation. Posters appealed to millions, giving a simple and clear advice on whether it was a matter of life and death, or proper organization of the labor process.
Each period had its own agenda, and they all demanded different artistic decisions. Posters, lottery tickets and certificates of the 1920s - 1930s demonstrate remarkable fusion of the ideas of constructivism and new design, and through them gradually sprouting elements of the victorious Socialist Realism. Combination of different styles can have a very peculiar shape as one can see in the poster Soviet artillery is the god of war (B.Mukhin, 1946) The whole style of the poster is triumphal with cartouches, ornaments with gold belts, encircling the horrible photos of destroyed towns. It seems to maintain the high style that official propaganda prevented - even using of the word God out of atheistic context.
In the posters of 1950s symbolical figures and metaphors were transformed into detailed stories about real people. Sometimes these stories resembled real life, but more often it was a kind of utopia. Posters have acquired extraordinary popularity. People saw in those posters an ideal socialist comic tale about their own life and happy future.
A vivid example of the new style came in 1960s were movie posters by Lev Korchemkin. Korchemkin made posters for the Austrian, French, Japanese films using their original movie posters. These new influence brought an unbearable lightness of being, which was absolutely missing in Soviet life before. In 1970s and early 1980s the art of posters was transformed into the art for arts sake. People were no longer interested in the slogans. Posters did not bring any new information and were transformed into a kind of the art for the art sake or art for the state. Artists solved formal problems by appealing to the heritage of the 1920s, hyper-realism, western comics. Rare sophisticated viewer could appreciate these attempts, but the majority ignored senseless incantations of the Party&aposs policy in the pictures. Policemen and mothers, farmers and intellectuals were portrayed equally arbitrary, as if the artists were afraid to offend people&aposs similarities with the image homunculus - the Soviet people.