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«Exhumation»
15.XII.2018 – 25.II.2019
Exhumation. Social realism from OFAM collection
The new exhibition project has a logical continuation of the newly closed exhibition: "Special Fund: Repressed Art", which introduced the public to the banned art, removed for decades from the history, scientific circulation, and museum exhibitions.

How did they replace it? Why did they clean up the artistic scene? What was an alternative to the repressed Ukrainian avant-garde and modernism? The exhibition answers these questions.
We got social realism art from reserves, in different conditions, sometimes half-decomposed and crumbling.

This has nothing to do with the new trend of progressive artists to refer to the Soviet Union. We are not getting moved by Social realism art, and we want to dissect it.

No nostalgia. So-called a forensic examination.

From modernism, which mutates into formalism, to formalism, which mutates into "severe style". Brodsky's work of dry-handed Stalin (since then no one wrote Stalin with a dry left hand), to the lilac and roses. From three-meter hazelnuts to naturalistic genre scenes.
"Epic "leadership" and bourgeois "trifle" in socialist realism - are two sides of the same coin. Bourgeoisie and conformism give rise to dictatorship.

There will be no "meeting with the beautiful." A meeting with the truth awaits you. With the truth about raped context, broken artists, and defamed art. The truth about how the center of the world's avant-garde was transformed into a retrograde imitation reserve, how revolutionary it was replaced by servility.

A true analysis of a great lie". - said Alexander Roitburd

An exhibition, "Exhumation." Social Realism from the Odesa Fine Arts Museum collection attempts to look into the black abyss' eyes.

What is social realism's art? What is its essence, and most importantly, is it art? What is the significance of the art of partly low artistic value? Is it appropriate to talk about social realism in a purely aesthetic field, rejecting ethical categories? Conversely, does the tragedy that permeates the art history of the 1930s prevails over art itself? Is it possible to consider art separately from personalities and historical realities? How the authorities managed to break and reformat several generations of artists, including great masters?

When we start to refer to these issues, it becomes clear that the topic of social realism is a taboo. A taboo of the society itself, which severely limits the context sets polarity at the level of thoughts and feelings that does not allow us to look at social realism remotely and impartially.

"Exhumation" is a logical continuation of the exhibition "Special Fund: 1937-1939. "Repressed Art" from the National Art Museum of Ukraine collection, which introduced forbidden art to the Odesa public. How did they replace it? Why did they clean up the artistic scene? What was an alternative to the repressed Ukrainian avant-garde and modernism? The exhibition answers these questions.
Радянський режим, що прийшов до влади внаслідок революції, активно експлуатував революційну риторику. Пафос тотального перетворення світу здавався співзвучним революційним пошукам художників-авангардистів і радикальних модерністів. Втім, на рубежі 1930-х років режим починає цементуватися і актуалізувати консервативні тенденції. Офіційна ідеологія, як і раніше, ритуально сакралізує революцію, але разом з тим табуює революційний вектор у мистецтві. Свободу творчості було остаточно ліквідовано в СРСР у 30-ті роки ХХ століття, натомість жорстка ідеологічна та естетична цензура створила соцреалістичний канон. Згортання НЕПу знищило художній ринок. Головним і єдиним замовником художнього твору відтепер стає держава. У 1931 році всіх радянських художників зігнали до єдиного «творчого союзу», що виконував функції активного провідника ідеології і політики комуністичної партії. Всі незалежні художні угруповання були ліквідовані.

Так званий «соціалістичний реалізм» утверджується як «єдино правильний» напрям. Формується чіткий канон, в якому естетика слідує за ідеологією. В його основі — новий академізм, апелювання до зразків імперського мистецтва, дидактичність та крайня ідеологізація, що тяжіє до літературності. Поновлюється колись відмерлий жанр передвижницької «тематичної картини» з її «народністю» і натуралістичним реалізмом, але з підміною критичної складової на ідеалізацію дійсності. Для соцреалістичного мистецтва характерні риси міфотворчості, створення ілюзії «світлого майбутнього», яке дивним чином настало вже зараз, проектування образу «ідеальної реальності» у свідомість глядача. Вершиною образотворчого мистецтва проголошено монументальну багатофігурну картину з сюжетами про зустрічі вождів з народом, трудові звершення, революційну героїку, військові подвиги, колгоспні свята і радість життя в радянській країні.
Simultaneously, the Soviet Union is undergoing forced collectivization, famine, mass repression, russification, forced industrialization, and militarization.

These processes give rise to a new type of men, detached from the earth, uprooted from the familiar environment. Socialist realism presents him as a strong, handsome, eternally young "new hero", who embodies the ancient ideal and finds personal happiness through collective actions to benefit the Soviet country. And the more numerous and cohesive are the team, the larger are the actions, the higher the degree of his happiness.

World War II also became the object of mythologizing in Soviet art. It became a base for nowadays Russian "religion of the Great Patriotic War."

With the death of Stalin and the subsequent Khrushchev Thaw, the socialist-realists canon is eroding. As the pathos of totalitarian ideology decreases, the dominance of the epic "thematic picture" weakens, and the domestic genre becomes relevant.
The total great style degenerates into bourgeois narrative everyday life, soon officially branded as "trifle" and "varnishing reality." In the late '50s, fresh air comes to the art scene, notes of romanticism and sincere optimism begin to prevail. The limits of what is allowed in stylistic, plastic, and figurative solutions are expanding. Such leads to the emergence of "severe style" and the following areas. But until the collapse of the Soviet empire, socialist realism proclaimed "not by style but by method," remained the core doctrine of its official art.

The decommunization process is taking place today in Ukraine forces us to take a new look at the art of that era. What role should museums play in the representation of art that has been in the service of propaganda? Should museums, as governmental bodies, maintain objectivity in presenting the contradictory pages of art history, or should they be forgotten, shyly silencing a whole layer of domestic art? Should the masters who served the criminal ideology through innocent landscapes and still lives be represented, or should their works be exhibited, forming a critical context for their perception and comprehension?

Many artworks of that era require restoration. Despite the deplorable state of preservation, these works are deliberately included in the exhibition "Exhumation." We show totalitarian art in a state of decay.

There are examples in history when art was in the service of the authorities' interests, but never before have these relations been so total and uncompromising as under the Stalinist regime.

Perhaps not all the works presented at the exhibition have a substantial artistic value. But they are artifacts of an era, which terrible lessons cannot be forgotten.

Author: Anna Aliieva
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