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In Search of a Modern Style. Leningrad from the Mid-1950s to the Mid-1960s

A. Vedernikov. In the interior. 1966. Color lithograph on paper. The State Russian Museum
28 february—16 april 2018
The exhibition aims to trace the process of formation of a conventional visual language of the “thaw” period, known as Modern Style, and the changes in the world of objects that came along. Comprising of more than 200 works of decorative and applied arts, graphic art, painting, and sculpture created in Leningrad between the late 1950s and mid-1960s, it provides comprehensive insight into a particular facet of Soviet Modernism.

The concept of the Modern Style came into common use in the mid-1950s and became part of professional discourse through publications in the magazine Dekorativnoye Iskusstvo SSSR (USSR Decorative Arts). Modern Style was developing simultaneously in easel arts, architecture and object design, though it was in the latter that it manifested itself most remarkably. The new understanding of the form took its source in the experience of Soviet Constructivism and international style, as well as in the reflection on modern technologies. Today, this phenomenon is often referred to as Soviet Modernism.

Modern Style, as opposed to Stalinist Empire Style, presupposed affordability and no luxury at all. The old motto of the avant-garde, “art into masses,” was reincarnated into a humbler and more domestic version of itself — art into every home.  

The exhibition is made up of local, Leningrad material. The specificity of the Leningrad tradition lies within its susceptibility to classic Modernism in its various manifestations: it was here that disciples of masters of avant-garde used to live and work, more or less professionally independent art manufacturers used to function, as well as unofficial art groups. 

B. Yermolayev. To Father. 1961. Color lithograph on paper. A. Kiselev. White Nights. 1963. Porcelain, overglaze painting. L. Smirnova. Set "Citron". 1964. Crystal. V. Matyukh. Behind the counter. 1960s. Lithograph on paper. Private collection, St. Petersburg

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