Soviet Avant Garde and constructivism (Also related to the previous post…)

On the occasion of the 2014 UK-Russia year of culture, Richard Saltoun Gallery will be presenting a special selection of works by leading practitioners of Russian avant-garde photography, including Alexander Rodchenko and the Vkhutemas Workshop. It will take place from Wednesday July 09 to Tuesday July 29, 2014 in London (111 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 6RY)

You can find more information here.

As the importance of the Soviet Avant Garde is widely recognised, it is worth to mention that also in Cuba it has been valued. In our past post we mentioned the text written by Jessie Zechnowitz regarding the art of propaganda en the former Soviet Union and in Cuba. Today, I would like to recall an exhibition that took place in Havana a few years ago. If by any chance you were in Cuba in the summer of 2011, probably you had the opportunity to visit the exhibit “Vanguardias soviéticas. De la formulación abstracta a la utopía humanística” (“Soviet Avant–Garde. From Abstract Formulation to Humanistic Utopia”), in the National Art Museum, in Havana from July 4th–September 18th. A total of 95 graphic works produced between 1919 and 1941 was exhibited.


vanguardias rusas

The exhibition included works by Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956), El Litssitzky (1890-1941), Gústav Klucis (1895- 1938), Valentina Kulagina (1902-1987), Varvara Stepánova (1894-1956), Liubov Sergeevna Popova (1889-1924), Nathan Isayevich Altman (1901-1970), Vladimir Roskin (1896-1984), Borís Ignátovich (1899-1976) and Solomón Telingater (1903-1969). The 95 pieces were collages, pictures and posters that had a political propaganda objective, mainly.

The exhibit  offered “a more relaxed look to an artistic reality that would accompany the proletarian revolution from experimentation, without the vices of the descriptive disease exalted by Stalinism” (1). This depoliticization and desideologización Cuban relationship with the Soviet allows, first, a necessary reconciliation with the Soviet past of the island, and second, the recognition of its influence on Cuban culture. It shall open the door for a debate just budding about their impact in the formation of Cuban identity. As part of this recognition, the socialist ideological iconography loses its original value; myths disappear and the only transcending thing is the ways found by the individuals to negotiate and deploy a new affective, personal cartography of the past. The affective mapping propelled by the Soviet past allows to put that past in the past. According to Frederic Jameson (2) the past has a charming appealing because:

It is partly a fascination with dating , aging , the passage of
time for its own sake: like looking at photographs of ourselves
in old-fashioned clothing in order to have a direct intuition
of change, of historicity ( 135-136 ).

Only from this reconciliatory and relaxed space is possible to understand the proliferation of references -clearly recognizable as Soviet- in the formation of the Cuban nation. The expo, thus, provided a new reading of the relationship between Cuban and Russian cultures. This new reading loses all political and ideological meaning and allows a necessary reconciliation with the Cuban Soviet past and the recognition of its impact on Cuban identity.


(1) Machado, Mabel. “Imágenes soviéticas en Cuba: Para mirar desprejuiciadamente el arte posrevolucionario”. La Jiribilla. Revista de cultura cubana. La Habana. Año X. 9 al 15 de julio de 2011. No. 531. Web. 28 Oct. 2011. <;.

(2) Jameson, Frederic.  Ensayos sobre el posmodernismo. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Imago Mundi, 1991.

About Soviet Cuba: Identities in Transition

A site devoted to the study and promotion of the Soviet-Cuban cultural crossroads. An open space of convergence and exchange of ideas related to the sentimental Soviet-Cuban community (in English, Spanish, and even Russian!)
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