Geli Korzhev

Geli Korzhev, Before a Long Journey, 1970–1976. Oil on canvas, 35 x 47 inches.

Nikolai Sokolov

Nikolai Sokolov, Odessa, Pushkin Street, 1962. Oil on board, 13 x 18 3/8 inches.


As a special companion to RUSSIA!, the Sackler Center for Arts Education at the Guggenheim presents Reflections: Socialist Realism and Russian Art, an exhibition of twenty-five paintings from the collection of Raymond and Susan Johnson and The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis.

Socialist Realism was the official style of Soviet art from the mid-1930s until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It emerged as the result of the state’s efforts to intensify and codify its control over the arts and was charged with transforming the nation’s inhabitants into Soviet citizens—in the words of one of its leading spokesmen, Andrei Zhdanov, effecting the “ideological remolding and education of working people in the spirit of socialism.” Toward this end, Socialist Realist artworks were to portray the radiant Communist future rather than the actual, often grim conditions of Soviet life.

Particularly in the West, Socialist Realism has often been dismissed as Communist kitsch, mere political propaganda monolithic in form and lacking in artistic merit. While this criticism is undoubtedly warranted in many cases, Reflections: Socialist Realism and Russian Art indicates that this is clearly not true of all Socialist Realist artworks. Reflections evokes the breadth of Socialist Realism—its impressive range of techniques, themes, and genres—as well as the technical virtuosity of many of its practitioners. It also indicates some of the ways Soviet artists inventively negotiated the boundaries of Socialist Realism, producing works of subtle beauty that managed to question the style’s utopian message while also expressing a unique creative vision.

The exhibition Reflections: Socialist Realism and Russian Art is now on view at The Sackler Center for Arts Education at the Guggenheim Museum.

View the exhibition RUSSIA!

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