Pop Will Find a Way
The fact that particular brands were as beloved and as much a part of everyday life under the umbrella of the Soviet Union as they were in the capitalistic West was a revelation for me. Wasn't part of the point of Communism to protect the populace from the evils of consumerism? Apparently it's all relative.
Alexander Kosolapov, The History, 1985, Acrylic, canvas. 50" x 80"
As the current exhibition ("Russian Pop Art") at the New Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow shows, not only was consumerism very much a part of the USSR, but it was so much so that Soviet artists had responded to it in much the way Western artists had, with Pop Art:
Warhol never suspected that his Russian contemporaries were finding beauty in the plain props of Soviet life and giving them the same adulatory treatment that he gave cans of Campbell's soup. Those works are featured in "Russian Pop Art," an exhibit organized by the Tretyakov Gallery's department for new currents in art, that opens Wednesday. On display will be over 250 works from the holdings of the Tretyakov, private collectors and Moscow galleries.
"Pop art is a certain set of ideas," Andrei Yerofeyev, head of the Tretyakov department behind the exhibition, said in an interview last week, dispelling the notion that Pop art is specific to American culture. Yerofeyev said that in order to be considered Pop art, a work must be figurative -- it must show an object -- and it must "speak the language of the masses." Russian Pop artists depicted doors, windows and appliances that were the stuff of domestic life in the Soviet Union.
Ironically, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the artist getting all the images in the press for this exhibition (Alexander Kosolapov [both images above are his]) uses mainly Western icons, but that may be more just an editorial choice by those doing the reporting. Here's one of his earlier pieces using a Soviet product:
Alexander Kosolapov, The Woman Bathing, 1975 As one report on this exhibition noted, there's lots of matchbox and bra brands represented among the 250 works in the exhibition. There's a pun somewhere in there about feminism, but I'm too loopy from allergies to find it.