Soviet visual artists played a pivotal role in history, as photography, film and poster were recognized as fundamental tools in the dissemination of Communist ideology and intended as motors of social change. Bolsheviks produced posters with colorful imagery and mobilizing slogans to reinforce the messages of communal power and solidarity. In the USSR, over half of the population was illiterate so propaganda via simple yet efficient means was the most effective way to mobilize the people.
The exhibition included a selection of vintage propaganda posters and prints from the 1920s and 30s. A 1929 image of the portrait of the New Man, building the world of the 20th century illustrates the direction of Valentina Nikiforovna Kulaghina’s constructivist art after 1920, influenced by her husband, Gustav Klutsis. Klutsis (1895-1938), a pioneering Latvian photographer who had studied with Malevich and founded the artist group “October”, at the forefront of the Constructivist avant-garde, was present with three images of Stalinist propaganda from the 1930s. Other artists included are Boris Markovich Fridkin, El Lissitski (with the cover of the book, Neues Bauen in der Welt, Russland), Vladimir Krinsky (Soviet architect associated with the Vkhutemas) State Art and Technical Workshops, the most important design school in the USSR during the 1920s and member of ASNOVA, a vintage gelatin silver photograph of the Iconic Vera Muhina photograph who was the logo of Mosfilm, the state film studio.
The Soviet propaganda images were produced by artists fascinated by the movement of the proletariat, who often ended up banished, excluded from public life or executed when they strayed from the Party line since art and politics went hand in hand. The ideals of the Soviet Revolution are reflected in topics such as the friendship between the working class and the peasants, the collectives, the Five Year Plan or the figure of Stalin, as the cult of personality became obvious. Numerous posters are based on photographic collages in accordance with Lenin’s statement that the camera was an important weapon in class struggle and also reflecting the artists’ tendency to innovate.