Frist Center Presents “The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography and Film”
Citywide Film Series in Conjunction with Exhibition Features "Battleship Potemkin" on 35 mm, "Man with a Movie Camera," and More
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (January 14, 2016)—The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography and Film, on view at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts from March 11 through July 4, 2016, examines the relationship between art and politics and illustrates how photography, film and poster art were used as powerful propaganda tools in the early years of the Soviet Union. Organized by the Jewish Museum, New York, The Power of Pictures will make its second and final U.S. stop in Nashville before traveling to Europe.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the film series Revolution and Realism will showcase seminal films from the period. This program, representing a collaboration between the Frist Center, International Lens at Vanderbilt, Belcourt Theatre, and Light + Sound Machine at Third Man Records, will offer screenings at three different locations.
From the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution through the 1930s early modernist artists acted as engines of social change and radical political engagement. Through approximately 150 objects, including photographs, 12 feature-length films, periodicals and cameras, The Power of Pictures documents not only how lens-based art was used to disseminate Communist ideology, but also how the compelling, message-laced work from this period energized and expanded the potential of photography and film.
The Power of Pictures highlights major constructivist photographers Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, and Boris Ignatovich, whose work was presented in landmark exhibitions of the time. Such photographers influenced a new generation of photojournalists, including Arkady Shaikhet, Max Penson, Eleazar Langman and Georgy Zelma. The exhibition also includes films by major directors of the era, such as Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein and Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov.
In a country where 70% of the population was illiterate, heavily illustrated periodicals and film were considered more effective tools than the written word for the propaganda needs of the Bolsheviks in the 1920s. Recognizing the power of images, Vladimir Lenin himself declared that the camera, as much as the gun, was an important weapon in class struggle and put the arts at the service of the Revolution.
Although the Communist government initially encouraged the unconventional techniques of the avant-garde, such as dramatic camera angles and darkroom manipulation, the period of innovation was brief. By 1932, as Joseph Stalin consolidated power, independent styles were no longer tolerated. Artistic organizations were dissolved and replaced by state-run unions. Art was subject to strict state control, and required to promote an approved, idealized socialist agenda.
Organized thematically with sections such as “New Perspectives,” “Constructing Socialism,” and “Staging Happiness,” the exhibition demonstrates how alongside avant-garde art, early Soviet photography and film encompassed a much wider range of artistic styles and thematic content than previously recognized. In addition, The Power of Pictures will feature a rich array of vintage film posters, magazines and books. Their striking graphic style, extreme color and dynamic geometric designs, combined with an innovative use of collage and photomontage, convey a sensibility that is fresh and appealing nearly a century later.
The exhibition was organized by Susan Tumarkin Goodman, Senior Curator Emerita, and Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Public Programs, both at the Jewish Museum, New York.
“In keeping with the First Center’s goal of encouraging our audience to view the world in new ways through art, this exhibition may inspire visitors to assess the images that we are constantly inundated by today with a more critical and informed eye,” says Frist Center Curator Katie Delmez who is overseeing the Frist Center’s presentation. “The interplay of political messaging and art continues in the ever-evolving media outlets of the twenty-first century.”
This exhibition was organized by the Jewish Museum, New York. The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography and Film is made possible by the Eugene and Emily Grant Family Foundation, The David Berg Foundation, the Andrew and Marina Lewin Foundation, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Exhibition Fund.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Jewish Museum, New York, and Yale University Press have published a 240-page catalogue by Susan Tumarkin Goodman and Jens Hoffmann, with an essay by Alexander Lavrentiev. Alexander Lavrentiev is a Moscow-based art historian, grandson of the photographer Alexander Rodchenko, and director of the Rodchenko-Stepanova archive. Featuring 148 color and 30 black and white illustrations, the hardcover book is available worldwide and at the Frist Center for $45.00.
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Friday, March 11
Curator’s Perspective “Broken Promises: Soviet Photography in the Age of Stalin” Presented by Susan Tumarkin Goodman, Senior Curator Emerita at the Jewish Museum
Frist Center Auditorium
First come, first seated
Soviet photographs have played a pivotal role in the history of photography. Covering the period from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution through the 1930s, this lecture will examine how photography and film were harnessed to disseminate Communist ideology. Goodman will explore how early avant-garde aesthetics influenced a new Soviet style, as well as the innovations of early Soviet lens-based art during a time of profound social transformation. The lecture will include striking images by master photographers and filmmakers used as powerful propaganda tools in the new Soviet Union.
Thursday, March 31
Curator’s Tour The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography and Film with Katie Delmez, Frist Center curator
Meet at the exhibition entrance
Gallery admission required; members free
The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography and Film examines how photography, film, and poster art were used to disseminate Communist ideology, revisiting a moment in history when artists acted as engines of social change and radical political engagement. Join Katie Delmez on a tour of the exhibition to explore how artists such as Constructivists Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky and modernists like Arkady Shaikhet and Max Penson left their mark on this history of photography.
Thursday, March 17
Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
Venue: International Lens
Sarratt Cinema, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Sarratt Student Center, Nashville
In this experimental documentary film, director Dziga Vertov offers an avant-garde view of urban life within the Soviet Union. Disregarding narrative, character, and traditional cinematic storytelling, Vertov instead showcases his cutting-edge techniques in what has been described as a feature-length montage. This screening will also feature a scholarly introduction by Dr. Jason Strudler from the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages at Vanderbilt. Directed by Dziga Vertov. 68 minutes. NR. 1929. Blu-ray. Silent with English intertitles.
Tuesday, March 22
Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924)
Venue: International Lens
Sarratt Cinema, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Sarratt Student Center, Nashville
Often described as one of the first science fiction films, Aelita: Queen of Mars chronicles an adventurer’s journey to Mars, where he leads an uprising alongside a beautiful and seductive queen. The film showcases spectacular sets and costumes heavily influenced by the Russian Constructivist movement. This screening will also feature a scholarly introduction by Dr. Jason Strudler from the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages at Vanderbilt. Directed by Yakov Alexandrovich Protazanov. 111 minutes. NR. 1924. Blu-ray. Silent with English intertitles.
Friday, April 29
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
First come, first seated.
Venue: Frist Center Auditorium
Consistently listed as one of the most important films of all time, Battleship Potemkin dramatizes a historic event that occurred in 1905, when Russian crew members mutinied against their unjust tsarist commanders. Battleship Potemkin showcases the effectiveness of cinema as a propaganda tool within the Soviet Union and beyond; many films, including The Godfather and The Untouchables, have paid homage to its Odessa Steps sequence.
Directed by Sergei Eisenstein. 75 minutes. NR. 1925. 35 mm. Silent with English intertitles.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924)
8:00 p.m. (doors open at 7:00 p.m.)
Venue: Light + Sound Machine at Third Man Records
623 Seventh Avenue South, Nashville
A hilarious tribute to American silent comedies, this Russian film was the first to specifically address American stereotypes of Soviet Russia as well as the first produced by director Kuleshov’s Experimental Cine-Laboratory school. This 16mm print, on loan from the film library of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, offers a rare glimpse of slapstick humor used for propagandistic effect. Directed by Lev Kuleshov. 94 minutes. NR. 1924. 16 mm. Silent with English intertitles.
High-Resolution Images Available
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About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Center offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Information on accessibility may be found at fristcenter.org/accessibility. Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and to members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, Café, and Gift Shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling 615.244.3340 or by visiting fristcenter.org.
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