Soviet Art!

Later in the 1920s, on a long visit to the Soviet Union, Rivera took part in the debates on the relation between avant-garde art and revolutionary politics. Rivera’s visit to Russia was matched by those of Mayakovsky and Eisenstein to Mexico.

Recent years have seen a great revival of interest in the Russian avant-garde and particularly in the ways in which art and politics converged and clashed. Many of the same issues and problems arose in Mexico at the same time – the relationship of the avant-garde artist with the mass audience, the role of collective work, the relationship between art and craft, the absorption of  cubism into a complex national culture, the relationship between propagandist content and innovative formal concerns, and so on. (Laura Mulvey, Visual and other pleasures, P83)

Whilst in Russia, I was struck by the big, bold, black and sculpted political art statements present in most parks, squares and central public spaces. The biggest and most striking of all the gigantic sculptures I came across, shouted revolution, it was a giant head in the square in Ulan Ude (Russia – Siberia – north of the Mongolian border). The head is of Lenin a soviet leader. The presence of this huge head is both a solid political and artistic statement. If the head could speak it would say ‘look up at me, I am big, I am bold, I will overpower all the people in the square who gaze at my face, I am your leader!’

The Lenin head I photographed whilst in Ulan Ude, Russia. © Copyright of this photograph belongs to Clare Gosling.

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About Clareg

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