If you were amazed by the beautiful images at the $50 Billion
Winter Olympics opening - giant colorful tableaus floating in a visual theatrical
production that went far beyond the Chinese and English openings - it might be
‘in the air.’ The same can’t be said for the Christmas
Sweater Patriotism of the Ralph Lauren-dressed U.S.
athletes. Certainly, Ralph Lauren is graphically-challenged.
Nor was the highly-politicized anti-Putin/anti communist
U.S. government line presented by former
Clinton Press Secretary George Stephanopoulos as ‘Olympic’ commentary on NBC of any help. NBC is owned by media oligopolist
General Electric. Stephanopoulos now
works for another media oligopoly, Disney’s ABC. He is also a member of the ruling-class
advisory group, the “Council on Foreign Relations.” The Sochi Olympics have multiple problems, but mouthpiece Stephanopoulos' propaganda is of little use.
In a society that does not have as much television and images beamed into its life constantly, painting is still considered a serious art, not just decoration or an expression of weirdness. This can also be seen in countries like
Cuba or Vietnam, and poorer countries
around the globe. This was especially
true in the 1920s and early 30s when Russian avant-garde painting in styles
like Constructivism and Suprematism, and painters like Malevich, broke new
ground in world art. Later socialist
‘realism’ became the only allowed style, and these painters disappeared, were sent
to mental hospitals or were imprisoned.
In an extraordinary documentary, “
of Forbidden Art,” filmmakers Pope
& Georgiev captured the life and achievement of Igor Savitsky, who rescued
40,000 works of avant-garde Soviet/Russian art and stored them in his invisible museum
in northern Uzbekistan,
in Nukus. Nukus is the capital of the
northern Uzbek province of Karakalpakstan, near the shrunken Aral
Sea. Savitsky traveled to Moscow and Leningrad,
secretly collecting the art of side-lined and unknown female and male painters.
His greatest achievement was the discovery
of a colony of hidden Russian artists in Uzbekistan who brought together
European impressionism, cubism and Fauvism, Uzbek desert culture and Soviet
themes to create an absolutely new art. All
this hidden away from the KGB and bureaucratic governments in Moscow, and actually paid for by friendly Communist officials in Karakalpakstan.
Out-of-favor paintings from artists like Alexander Volkov, Mikhail Kurzin, Ural Tansykbaev and painters of the gulag like female artist Nadezhda Borovaya were all saved and housed in Nukus.
The bureaucratic/Stalinist response to art was to control it, much as they outlawed vegetarianism, homosexuality, jazz or anything not under their control – all with the workerist rubric that it was ‘not working class.’ This method, as seen in their treatment of rock and roll music (see review of ‘How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin,’ below) actually undermined the workers’ state and alienated many artists from socialism. It also impoverished the new culture.
The Nukus museum still exists today, managed for many years by a woman whom Savitsky asked to take over when he died after inhaling preservative fumes. They refuse to sell to private collectors or loan out their pictures to other museums, demanding that visitors come to seem them in their original home. Today, capitalist art profiteers, Islamic militants and corrupt Uzbek bureaucrats all threaten this collection. The Minneapolis Museum of Russian Art estimates it would cost $500K to bring a show of Nukus art to the
U.S. (see review of MORA show on ‘Women in
Soviet Art,’ below.) Anyone got that much?
February 8, 2014