Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Ironic Curtain

The Ironic Curtain is currently on display thru September 12, 2021 at the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina. This exhibit features the underground work of Russian artists under political repression prior to the fall of the Soviet Union as well as more recent art. In short, this is named Sots Art.

Some pieces are quite quirky like this of Apollo the Greek god of the arts, President Ronald Reagan and Spiderman. This artist emigrated to the United States from Russia stating that "Sots Art in exile is, for me, the genuine thing." He felts that "Sots Art cannot evolve in Russia."

Hero, Leader, God -by Alexander Kosolapov, 1985

Below is Joseph Stalin watching Charlie Chaplin's Gold Rush playing on the scene of the old leather shoe being eaten. Stalin banned the movie after seeing the painting to avoid comparison.

Shoe Appetite, 2 Great Dictators by Tengiz, 1991

Perseus holding Medusa's head is depicted by the artist here explaining this is the assassin who killed Leon Trosky by a pickaxe to the head when he was in exile in Mexico City in 1940. The order was given by Stalin.

Perseus (The Assassination of Trotsky by Stalin By Alexander Kosolapov, 1983

This work is a collection of leaders, dictators and art collectors. The bottom right is Neil K. Rector who is the collector of the exhibit collection.

The Third Empire by Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamidm 1982-1983

This sculpture is a play on Giacometti's Walking Man. In this humorous piece, the walking man suffering from life's challenges at the time in his country meets Vladimir Lenin. Lenin is normally depicted as strong but here is a bit baffled by this worn out man. It portrays the difference between Socialist Realism and Existentialism of the time.

Meeting of Two Sculptures by Leonid Sokov, 1990

I particularly appreciated the large collection of photographs in this exhibit. 

Television Came to the Village by Mark Shteinbock, 1980

The most remarkable work to us was that of Oleg Vassiliev. These are more recent works. What intrigued us was how much aspects of these oil on canvas appeared like photographs. True art!

Remembrance of Things Past by Oleg Vassiliev, 1993

Gathering in Moscow by Oleg Vassiliev, 1998

Erik Bulatov - Mayakovsky Square by Oleg Vassiliev, 1995

This painting below is by the artist portrayed in the piece above. Bulatov said "The space we inhabited was entirely deformed by our frighteningly aggressive ideology. But because people had lived their lives in this space, they had begun to perceive it as normal, as natural. I personally wanted to show the abnormality and unnaturalness of this normal space". The Soviet men and women are enjoying the beach scene which is interrupted by red "ribbon" used in military medals, particularly under Lenin.

Red Horizon by Erik Bulatov, 1970-2000

In this photo below, the artist takes found photos and scratches out the faces as well as other treatments. His focus is photos from the 1930s - the 1950s when people under Stalin feared doing something wrong that could create trouble for them. It was important to be careful of what was being photographed. I have a feeling this fear still exists today and must be more challenging considering all the photos and film constantly being taken.

Untitled 4.90-22 by Igor Savchenko, 1993

Ending with something fun! There is a wonderful variety of children's book covers by these artists on display too.

Cinderella book cover by Oleg Vasiliev & Erik Bulatov, 1990

Overall the exhibit was entertaining, mostly witty and smile inducing. It demonstrates the power of humor at times of difficulty and oppression. 

If you go, the CMA is located at 1515 Main Street in Columbia, SC.

Open Tuesday thru Sunday from 10am - 5pm.

This exhibit runs thru September 12, 2021.

Have a marvelous day/evening (wherever you are on the clock)! ~Val


  1. Fascinating! I'm interested in Soviet history, art and culture so thanks for posting this. I love the title "Ironic Curtain" too.

    1. Maybe this exhibit will travel to your region. It is the first time some of these works have been on display in the US. The history is fascinating!

  2. This is all so interesting! Thanks for sharing it with us. :)

  3. I need to see if this is coming anywhere near me. What a fabulous exhibit, one I'd be very interested in seeing first hand.

  4. Looks very interesting.

    All the best Jan

  5. This was so interesting Val! Thank you! Big Hugs!


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