Monday, September 28, 2015

THE POWER OF PICTURES: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film: Review by Polly Guerin

The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film exhibition at The Jewish Museum, on view through February 7, 2016, is remarkably relevant today. As we think about the role of images in the age of social media, the exhibit has numerous lessons to offer; particularly in regard to the circulation of pictures and the relationship to the mass public. It reminds us that to maintain a connection between art and politics is a matter of urgency.
            Why is this exhibit significant? Jens Hoffmann, deputy director said, “The innovations of early Soviet lens-based art are remarkable relevant--even prescient--for our contemporary moment. In a time when the relationship between art and politics is still defined, it is opportune to look back at a period of enormous synergy between artistic creation and extreme political action.”
            Covering the period from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution through the 1930s, the exhibition explores how early modernist photography and film influenced a new Soviet Style. It revisits a moment in history when artists acted as engines of social change and radical political engagement. Through 181 works, The Power of Pictures reveals how striking images by master photographers and filmmakers were seen as powerful propaganda tools in the new Soviet Union.
Alexander Rodchenko Sports Parade Red Square
Recognizing that images had the power to transform society, Lenin put lens-based art at the service of the Revolution. A large number of the most prominent photographers, photojournalists, and filmmakers were Jewish and includes major constructivist photographers Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, and Boris Ignatovich to name a few.
           The period of intense innovation was brief. By 1932, as Joseph Stalin consolidated power, independent styles were no longer tolerate; the avant-garde became suspect and artistic organizations dissolved to be replace by state-run control.
            Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn presents a close look at two of Andy Warhol’s muses Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, exploring the Jewish identities of Warhol’s most celebrated subjects.  Both screen icons converted to Judaism in the 1950s. Warhol was fascinated by their star power and used publicity stills to create his iconic portraits. This intimate single-gallery exhibition features several portraits of these renowned actresses alongside a large selection of photographs, letters, and ephemera, shedding new light on their relationship with Judaism and Warhol’s interest in Celebrity culture.
Arkady Shaikhet 's Assembling the Globe
Masterpieces &Curiosities: Alfred Stieglitz’s The Steerage: This exhibition focuses on Stieglitz’s enduring 1907 photogravure of steerage-class passengers aboard the ocean liner Kaiser Wilhelm II. Stieglitz’s concerns, however, were largely aesthetic rather than social-minded: he was moved more by the picture’s formal qualities than its subject matter.  Stieglitz considered the work to be his greatest triumph, stating lager in life, “If all my photographs were lost, and I’d be represented by just one, The Steerage, I’d be satisfied.”  This gallery also includes related artworks from the Jewish Museum’s collection.
           The Television Project: Picturing a People is drawn from the Jewish Museum’s Nation Jewish Archive of Broadcasting. It explores the ways in which television has addressed the Jewish experience through clips and artistically important programs, ephemera, and works of art and considers how Jews have been portrayed on American television through the 1950s to the present.
            Ta Ta Darlings!!! Film screenings accompany this exhibit. For daily the film schedule contact: Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly’s Blogs at


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