This show of the most significant works of Polish and Soviet artists between 1945-1989 illustrates the ties and trends between two nations of the former communist bloc and the contrast between works sanctioned by the authorities and those at the outer limits of legitimacy under the regime.
When Martial Law was instated by General Wojciech Jaruzelski on the 13th of December 1981 Polish artists responded to curfews, censorship and general repression with secret meetings and exhibitions at private homes and salons that were beyond the reach of the authorities. The transformations that set into motion throughout the 1980s, ultimately leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the birth of democracy in the former communist bloc. This led to even greater freedom for artist and an explosion of creative activity. The exhibition traces this evolution in artistic practice among the most significant artists of this period.
The more than 100 works in the show come from the collection of Piotr Nowicki, who explains that the focus of the exhibition is to illustrate the triumph of ideology and the presentation of representative works of socialist realism, involved in the ideas of communism, and grouped around political and social ideas. This style was characterised by bold line and colour, and particularly for portraits, a strong, determined expression, such as the painting of fellow artist Majakowski by Jerzy Nowosielski in 1950.
As art collector Nowicki says,
In Poland, Socialist Realism as the only correct style of art force in the years 1949 - 1955 and had such a strong influence on artists like the Soviet Union. This period is signaled several works by artists who were involved in the construction of a new Poland because of their leftist political views even before the war. Of particular note are artists like Katarzyna Kobro and Władysław Strzeminski, who were tied to the first pre-war avant-garde and independent artists, and their search to find new realities after World War II.In 1960, the secretariat of the Central Committee of Communist Party published a document on guidelines on cultural policy in the field of visual arts, which essentially established a maximum percentage of participation in exhibitions of abstract art and resulted in a bizarre resolution called the "15 percent artistic freedom". This was a tempting challenge for artists to indulge in a game of percentages with the authorities, pushing the limits of this limited freedom.
In 1962, the Moscow Artists' Union Circuit hosted an exhibition on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, showing the works of the "forgotten" Soviet painters. In small rooms on the mezzanine of the great, amounting to 3000 square feet Manege exhibited works by artists such as Ernst Nieizwiestny, Leonid Rabiczew, Boris Żutowski. Some of these works are included in the Abstractions and Figurations section of the current exhibition. Other sections present the geometric abstractions of Henryk Stażewski, Ryszard Winiarski and Henryk Berlewi, alongside works by Russian artists such as Vladimir Niwmuchun, Antolij Żygałow.
Behind the Iron Curtain - Official and Independent Art in Russia and Poland 1945-1989 was previously exhibited at the National Museum in Gdańsk in the spring of 2012. It is split up into thematic sections arranged in chronological order. The main themes are: The Triumph of Ideology, Pioneers, Second Avant Garde, 15% Abstraction, Abstractions and Figurations, Symbols and Significance, Art of Protest and Transformation.
The exhibition opens at the National Museum of Applied Arts and Folk Arts (VMDPNI) on the 21st of August 2012 at 6:00 p.m. and runs through the 9th of October 2012. It has been made possible thanks to the support of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Polish Foundation for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Poland, National Museum in Gdansk, Poland, National Center for Contemporary Art in Moscow.
National Museum of Applied Arts and Folk Art
ul. Delegatska 3, Moskwa
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart
Source: National Museum in Gdańsk