BREAKING THE ICE

By RANBIR JHUTTY

Having recently brought us the contemporary developments of American, Indian, Chinese and Korean artists, the Saatchi Gallery stages its most politically influenced show yet.
A well-conceived selection of twenty-three artists brought together from the holdings of the Tsukanov Family Foundation, the range of captivating works on view demonstrate the various wavelengths of artistic expression conditioned by Soviet repression and decline; from the refreshing and satirical to the meditative and abnormal.
Works which came into existence under the Khrushchev cultural Thaw of the late 1950s and early 1960s serve as our introduction to this gathering of ‘non-conformist’ art. The optimistic homages to earlier Russian pioneers can be glimpsed through the brave modernist-tinged developments of Lidia Masterkova, Vladimir Nemukhin and Yury Zlotnikov, who challenged State-sponsored Socialist Realism head on.
The ushering of Glasnost and Perestroika period in the 1980s sets up a more liberal backdrop for the mischievous mockery of Soviet idolatry and clever juxtapositions of ‘eastern’ and ‘western’ culture by artists Komar and Melamid, Alexander Kosolapov and Leonid Sokov – collectively known as the Sotsart movement. However superficial these works must seem on first sight, they do in fact present pithy framings of the 80s boom which resulted in the inevitable surge of western culture, commerce and globalisation bursting through the Iron Curtain.
An introspective palette cleanser to the louder works is provided by the 1980s Moscow conceptualists Ilya Kabakov, Francisco Infante and Eric Bulatov through their polarised depictions of everyday life, Soviet monumentality and abstract minimalism.
Breaking the Ice is certainly crucial viewing in comprehending these varied artistic fruitions that have become visual testaments to the later cultural revisions, repressions and ultimately, the demise of the Soviet Union.
Saatchi’s own collection of contemporary Russian art is featured in the accompanying exhibition Gaiety is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union which is on show until 5th May.

 

BREAKING THE ICE:
MOSCOW ART, 1960-80s
SAATCHI GALLERY, LONDON
UNTIL 24 FEB 2012
www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk

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