Soviet Avant-garde Expo in Havana

By Irina Echarry, Photos: Caridad

From the Soviet Avant-garde expo at the Havana Fine Arts Museum.

HAVANA TIMES, July 19 — A new exposition at the Havana Museum of Fine Arts welcomes the exhibit of Soviet avant-garde works from the collection of the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM), showing through September 18.

Photographs, collages, posters, propagandistic pamphlets, books and magazines designs, and artist photomontages pick up the rhythm and the colors of an epoch: the years following 1917 when the main principals of Soviet art were established.

Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina — some of the ten artists presented here — fed a powerful contemporary art movement that sought to take art to the people.  Rodchenko once said: “What I want is to take people to art, not take them anywhere else with the help of art.”

That phrase describes the objective of the movement: to mix in with people, to be welcomed into their homes, to take over the streets, to be absorbed as fashion, in short to be a daily part of the lives of workers and farmers.  That’s why the works reflect a joy that was linked to the new world they were building, as well as to the changes and the leaders of the time.

Those visiting the exhibition will also be able to enjoy excerpts from movies representative of the era – films like The General Line, October and the Battleship Potemkin by Eisenstein, as well as Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov.

This peculiar expo is one saturated with black and white as well as red in different mediums and sizes recreating the construction of a new society.  It is an exhibit that’s necessary for understanding the course of socialist realism, an aesthetic that would later expand to other continents.

Rejected by many and praised by others, it’s a worth learning how this movement arose that struggled to be identified with the masses and at the same time transformed or helped change the mentality of masses of people.

According to Mayakovski, one of the foremost poets of the Bolshevik Revolution: “Art is not a mirror that reflects the world, but a hammer to give it form.”

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One thought on “Soviet Avant-garde Expo in Havana

  • Looks like a great exhibit! Recently saw Dzhiga Vertov’s “Man with a Camera,” also from that era, which I highly recommend (available up here through NetFlix and several other sources).

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