Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy
at International Print Center New York, curated by Masha Chlenova / October 12 – December 16, 2017
Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy, commemorating the centennial of the 1917 Russian Revolution, looks beyond the canon of the Russian avant-garde to focus on three avenues of individual freedoms sought by the fledgling socialist society: the equality and emancipation of women; internationalism, including racial equality and the rights of ethnic minorities in Russia, especially Jews; and sexual and gay liberation.
By placing a selection of historical printed works by key Russian avant-garde artists of the 1920s and 1930s, including such well-known names as Gustav Klucis, El Lissitzky, and Elizaveta Ignatovich, in dialogue with contemporary works by Russian-born, New York-based artists Yevgeniy Fiks and Anton Ginzburg, the exhibition evaluates these often-obscured goals of the Revolution and addresses their continued urgency today – in Russia, the United States, and elsewhere.
Claude McKay was a young writer exploring the possibilities of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics when he addressed the 4th Congress of the Comintern in the Kremlin’s Throne Room in 1922. A key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the Jamaican writer wondered if the USSR could offer him what the United States did not: racial equality.
With the centennial of the former Soviet Union coming up Oct. 17, Masha Chlenova, curator of the exhibit “Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy,” uses still images of McKay from that day in 1922 to help understand just what he was feeling at the time. She takes a very measured approach to how she presents MaKay’s images, along with other images and artworks from the time that represent the USSR’s attempts to bring equality to women, Jews and LGBTQ people.