Victory over the Sun
Russian Avant-Garde and Beyond
- Curator: Tanya Sirakovich, Michael Bromberg Head Curator, Ruth and Joseph Bromberg Department of Prints and Drawings
- Designer: Shirly Yahalomi
- Ayala Zacks Abramov Pavilion for Israel Art, Nathan Cummings Building for Modern and Contemporary Art
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian avant-garde stood at the forefront of art, subverting its traditions, conventions, and limits. As the century progressed, other generations challenged the way in which art was created and perceived in Russia. Victory over the Sun presents works by avant-garde masters from the early years, the nonconformists of the 1960s-1980s, and contemporary figures, tracing artistic movements that accompanied a century of social and political upheaval – from the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution through the post-Stalinist era and up to the liberalization and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.
The exhibition opens with the avant-garde period. Through his iconic Black Square, Kazimir Malevich introduced radical geometric abstraction, and when the Revolution came in 1917, he was convinced that this type of art would play a leading role in the new world order. Initially, the young Soviet state did support innovative approaches, but in the late 1920s the regime imposed a rigid system of censorship, and avant-garde abstract art was no longer acceptable. It was replaced by Socialist Realism, an accessible figurative style wedded to the ideology of the Communist Party, which remained the sole official art form from the 1930s until the demise of the USSR in 1991.
The heart of the exhibition presents a group of underground nonconformist artists active in the 1960s to 1980s. Their works – stylistically diverse through united in their critique of Socialist Realism – reengaged with the historical avant-garde that had been erased from collective memory. Embracing its radical spirit, these artists voiced their dissent from the cultural and political domination exerted by Soviet ideology.
Concluding the exhibition, a selection of works by the following generation of artists offers contemporary responses to the avant-garde and its legacy. Born in an era of intellectual and social freedom, these artists' works contain complex reflections and a strong element of irony.
The exhibition's display devoted to key avant-garde books serves as a connecting thread between artists of different generations, revealing what might be described as the DNA of the Russian avant-garde: innovative thinking, a spirit of experimentation, utopianism, cross-disciplinary practices, and a fascination with the written word.
Exhibition made possible by the donors to the Museum’s 2018 Exhibition Fund:
Claudia Davidoff, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in memory of Ruth and Leon Davidoff, Hanno D. Mott, New York, The Nash Family Foundation, New York
Additional support provided by:
The Ayala Zacks Abramov Fund, Grace Frankel and Hanns Salzer Levi, Marbella, Spain, The Blavatnik Family Foundation, New York, Viatcheslav Kantor, President of MAGMA
Special thanks to
Irina Vrubel-Golubkina and Michail Grobman for their invaluable involvement in this project
Editing: Anna Barber, Annie Lopez
Graphic design: Yael Malul
Main title design: Michal Sahar
Photography: Elie Posner and Laura Lachman (unless otherwise specified)
Shipping and loans: Henk van Doornik, Shani Zehavi, Tal Elispur, Hila Karamani
Framing: Paul Zeharya Rowe, Technical services: Yaniv Cohen, Artur Avakov, Alexander Markov, Eran Aronson, Yariv Bonneau, Inbal Gerzon, Shay Niv
Audiovisual systems: Menahem Amin, Dima Proklov, Alex Uretsky, Amir Ronen
Conservation: Sharon Tager, Andrei Vainer, Connie Green, Michael Maggen, Ghiora Elon, Felix Spivack, Jessica Lewinsky, Irit Lev-Beit, Ronen Dor, Yona Dresner
PMO: Liat Benzguida-Baruch, Daniel Galperin, Sara Gal
Budget and insurance: Dalia Angel
Assistants to the Curator: Sarah Bensoussan, Lola Vilenkin
Design: Haya Sheffer
Editing: Hanna Caine Braunschvig
Site construction: Avi Rosenberg
Multimedia Curator: Dr. Susan Hazan