INTRODUCTION: In London, England, a rare exhibition of unofficial Soviet art opened on Tuesday (18 January).
INTRODUCTION: In London, England, a rare exhibition of unofficial Soviet art opened on Tuesday (18 January). Most of the work is by artists still in the U.S.S.R., where displays of unauthorised works have been broken up -- on one occasion with bulldozers. The artists themselves have been harassed, and sometime imprisoned.
SYNOPSIS: The exhibition is being held at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Central London. About 170 paintings, drawing, graphic works and sculptures by nearly 50 artists are on display and only work actually done in the U.S.S.R. is being shown. Most of the artist lead an ambiguous, insecure life and many have to live off the conventional book illustrations they are allowed to sell to official publications.
They are conscious that their unorthodox art may one morning mean that even their unorthodox work is no longer acceptable. In the past five years pictures have been burnt on bonfires, slashed, had acid poured over them and even been trampled to pieces.
This self-portrait is by Oskar Rabin, one of the leading non-conformists in Moscow. The day before the exhibition opened he said he had been detained by police the previous night to prevent him from attending another exhibition in Leningrad , held to coincide with the London show. He told newsmen that other painters who travelled to Leningrad were picked up on arrival and were being sent back to Moscow. The Leningrad show was staged in a private apartment, and apparently went ahead in spite of the police action.
A small number of artists now living in the West were present at the London opening to discuss their work. The history of Russian art since the Revolution has been of a brief initial period of brilliant experiment followed by suffocation, a more liberal phase under Khrushchev for a time, and then more repression. If the 1970's a few officially- permitted exhibitions have been staged, but not many.