Performing the Archive: Collective Actions in the 1970s-80s

Collective Actions Group Documentary photograph of performance "10 Appearances,"
Oct 25, 2008 - Jul 31, 2009
DuBrow Gallery

In the totalizing media environment of the late-Soviet era, many artists from the Moscow underground sought alternative ways of being seen and heard. Samizdat poetry, performances, and self-curated archives are only a couple of the strategies unofficial artists employed in the search for new spaces of artistic practice. In their “trips outside the city,” the Collective Actions group—a key grouping within the Moscow Conceptualist circle—invited audiences to travel to the fields outside Moscow to witness performances in the landscape. Documenting these performances through sound, photography, and video, the group kept a running record of its activities. Such factographic material was supplemented by interpretive essays and transcripts of group discussions, all of which was brought together in the folders of the Collective Actions archive. The present exhibition focuses on the first two decades of the group’s activities, introducing viewers to rare video footage of early actions as well as other materials from the archive. By representing key actions through related documentary and discursive materials, the exhibition proposes a re-performance of these actions for a contemporary audience.

Organized by Yelena Kalinsky, Dodge Fellow and Graduate Assistant for Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art 

Collective Actions Group

Documentary photograph of performance "10 Appearances," staged February 1, 1981, Moscow

Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI) #1 (Feb. 1981), Envelope #11

Dodge Collection Archive

Serialities: Repetition and Narrative in Soviet Nonconformist Art

Victor Pivovarov: But do you remember my face? 1975
Sep 01, 2005 - Mar 01, 2006
Dodge Wing Lower Level

Particularly in the West, seriality in art is often associated with Minimalism and Pop Art, movements that reacted against the modernist ideal of art as a unique and unrepeatable product of the artist’s personal vision. In the works of artists such as Andy Warhol and Donald Judd, the serial reproduction of images or objects serves to align art with the anonymous processes of mass production, with the resulting artworks seeking to embody the impersonal sterility of the mechanical.

In contrast to this, Serialities: Repetition and Narrative in Soviet Nonconformist Art seeks to investigate alternative conceptions and possibilities of serial art. During the last decades of Soviet rule, artists of the underground utilized seriality to emphasize the private and the personal, as well as to examine the relationship of visual art to the narrative practices of literature and film. The results are striking, both for the visual richness of the work and for the innovation and experimentation they represent. This work provides both compelling alternatives to the dominant Western models of serial art and showcases the vitality and creativity of the former Soviet Union’s nonconformist artists.

Organized by Yelena Kalinsky and Adrian Barr, Dodge Fellows and Graduate Assistants for Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art

Victor Pivovarov

But do you remember my face? 1975

Gouache on paper

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union


Origins of the Twentieth Century: Watercolors and Drawings in France, 1875-1915

Hermann Réne Georges Paul (called Hermann-Paul): Aux Champs-Elysées, ca. 1895
Sep 01, 2005 - Mar 12, 2006
European Galleries

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century as the Arts and Crafts Movement in France offered increased opportunities to work in printmaking media, especially that of lithography, drawing became an essential stage in the production of both limited-edition prints and mass-produced commercial ephemera. This development is explored in Origins of the Twentieth Century, an exhibition of over two hundred watercolors and drawings that derives primarily from the Zimmerli’s extensive holdings of turn-of-the-twentieth-century French graphic arts. The show concentrates in large part on the use of artists’ preparatory drawings in the creation of prints and illustrations for books and journals.

An introductory section presents earlier nineteenth-century works from the collection by such noted artists as Eugène Delacroix, J. M. W. Turner, and Gustave Moreau. It serves as background to the main focus of the exhibition by demonstrating many of the important aesthetic concerns of anti-academic Romantic, Realist, and Symbolist artists. The majority of the exhibition is devoted to investigating the ways that artists creatively adapted to and manipulated new photomechanical printing processes developed during the last quarter of the nineteenth century in order to gain income and reach wider audiences.

Hermann Réne Georges Paul (called Hermann-Paul)

Aux Champs-Elysées, ca. 1895

Ink, wash, watercolor, graphite, and gouache

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

Museum Purchase, Regina Best Heldrich Fund

Technical Detours: The Early Works of Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered

László Moholy-Nagy, Landscape (Bridge at Óbuda Hajógyár?), 1918-19
Sep 01, 2006 - Oct 31, 2006
Voorhees Gallery

This large, dynamic exhibition explores the early career of the Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), one of the most important figures in modern art of the twentieth century. Moholy-Nagy was an international artist and educator who worked in Hungary and Germany before moving to the United States where he finished his career. The exhibition will feature over 200 items, including paintings, watercolors and book designs that illustrate the tremendous influence of Moholy-Nagy’s work on artists in the early to mid twentieth century.

Technical Detours focuses on the artist’s career from 1918 until 1923, when he began teaching at the Bauhaus, the pre-eminent school of modernist art and design in Europe. During this period, Moholy-Nagy experimented with several different styles until he arrived at a style of geometrical abstraction for which he is best known and which defined the better part of his career. The exhibition considers Moholy-Nagy’s interactions with artists and writers in Budapest, Vienna, and Berlin and situates his work within their avant-garde circles just after the first world war. Works by other influential artists from Hungary, such as Kurt Schwitters and El Lissitsky, as well as émigré artists, with whom Moholy-Nagy interacted are included in the exhibition.

László Moholy-Nagy
Landscape (Bridge at Óbuda Hajógyár?), 1918-19
Oil on acidic composition board
Courtesy Hattula Moholy-Nagy

Two Masters of Lithuanian Photography: Antanas Sutkus and Rimantas Dichavicius

Antanas Sutkus, A Young Pioneer, 1965
Sep 30, 2006 - Mar 25, 2007
Dodge Wing Lower Level

Experimental photography in the Baltics played an important and complex role in the nonconformist art movement of the Soviet Union. Soviet censors regarded photography as less significant than literature, cinema, or painting, and, as a result, it enjoyed greater freedom. Socially critical pictures by Lithuanian photographers were sometimes accepted at exhibitions because they often carried “ideologically correct” titles and were diluted by the “idyllic” works of their official colleagues. During the 1960s and 1970s, works by Antanas Sutkus and Rimantas Dichavicius represented the progressive, more experimental tendencies of Soviet photography in opposition to Socialist Realist conventions.

Sutkus was one of the co-founders of the Association of Lithuanian Photographers—the first and for a long time the only such society in the USSR—which became a mecca for the photographers of the entire Soviet empire. Sutkus’s photographs showed life in Lithuania with its everyday realities revealing the hard truth about the life of its people and exposing the frugality of their surroundings.

In contrast, Dichavicius reinterprets the classical nude against and within the Lithuanian landscape. It is a remarkable endeavor considering that eroticism was one of the forbidden themes in Soviet official art and that nude photography had not been officially published since the early years of the Soviet system.

Antanas Sutkus

A Young Pioneer, 1965

Gelatin silver print

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union

Calculation and Impulse: Abstract American Prints

Mexican Night II by Robert Motherwell
Sep 01, 2007 - Feb 03, 2008
Eisenberg Gallery

Maximizing printmaking’s potential, many contemporary American artists create powerful, non-representational images in prints which convey either calculation or impulse. Precise delineation and deliberate placement of line, shape, and color often result in geometric constructions or minimalist grids, while impulse appears to motivate artists to abstract expressionism, painterly gesture, improvisational markings, irregular compositions, or biomorphic forms. Featuring more than fifty prints, this exhibition contrasts structured compositions of hard-edged geometric shapes, parallel rows, or precise, linear grids with other prints emphasizing grand, gestural strokes or seemingly haphazard spots of color. Such images evoke the vast universe of artistic imagination while also celebrating the vital collaboration between artists and master printers.

The exhibition features prints by abstract artist pioneers Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, and Robert Motherwell, as well as minimalist Donald Judd. Also featured are prints by Robert Mangold, Elizabeth Murray, Tom Nozkowski, and others selected from the Rutgers Archives for Printmaking Studios (RAPS), a major collection documenting artistic and technical trends in contemporary American printmaking as exemplified by the ongoing production of such printmaking studios as The Brodsky Center, K. Caraccio Etching Studios, Derrière l’Etoile, Echo Press, Catherine Mosley Studios, Solo Impression Inc., and VanDeb Editions.

Robert Motherwell

Mexican Night II, not dated

Etching and aquatint

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

Gift of Catherine Mosley

Art © Dedalus Foundation, Inc.

Licensed by VAGA, New York

The Heritage of the Russian Avant-Garde: Vladimir Sterligov and his School (Part II)

Factory by Gennadi Zubkov
Oct 27, 2007 - May 23, 2008
DuBrow Gallery

This exhibition features works created between 1960 and 1990 by members of the Leningrad Sterligov School. These artists carried on the spirit of the Russian avant-garde at a time when Socialist Realism was the only officially acknowledged style and earlier avant-garde works had been long locked away in museum storage rooms.

The group centered around Vladimir Sterligov and Tatiana Glebova who, in the 1920s, had been students of Kazimir Malevich and Pavel Filonov, respectively. In the 1960s, their home became a place of intellectual exchange and artistic study, an “invisible institute,” and a center of unofficial artistic culture in Leningrad.

A charismatic teacher, Sterligov attracted a large following. He believed that art possesses its own system of values independent of current politics and taught his students to perceive the world as a non-representational reality, “a visible invisibility, or a visibility unseen.” In his spatial system of the “cup-cupola,” he united the straight line of Malevich’s Suprematism and the curved line of Mikhail Matiushin’s Organic Culture, thus joining together heaven and earth, rational construction and organic perception. Featured in this exhibition are also the Sterligov students Elena Gritsenko, Gennadii Zubkov, Yuri Gobanov, and Aleksandr Kozhin, now based in St. Petersburg and Arkhangelsk.

With Lidiya Blinova and Rustam Khalfin, Sterligov also had a small group of followers in Central Asia, where he and Glebova had spent some time during the Second World War. Glebova and Sterligov were invited by Blinova and Khalfin to exhibit their works with the Group of Four in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and thus served as a link between the artist community in Almaty and the Leningrad art scene. 


Gennadi Zubkov

Factory, 1976-78

Pastel on paper

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union



From Here to the Horizon: American Landscape Prints from Whistler to Celmins

West Virginia Hills by Blanche Lazzell
Feb 16, 2008 - Jul 31, 2008
Eisenberg Gallery

This American print survey presents more than a century of panoramic vistas featuring the horizon: the great demarcation between earth and sky, world and universe. Sweeping landscape views have inspired a wonder for nature and the immensity of world, as well as, perhaps, a wish to reach new levels (or horizons) of attainment. This exhibition explores how different graphic artists have represented the topography of places nearby and faraway, real or imagined, whether dramatic wilderness, coastal scenes, rural settings, or places on the periphery of inhabited communities.

J.A.M. Whistler and Vija Celmins each depict a body of water in an evocative way, yet each artist’s approach is different. For his etching of the Venice lagoon, Whistler made a few wispy lines to suggest expanses of water and sky. Celmins’s lithograph of a section of the ocean’s surface is almost photorealistic in detail, prompting simultaneous contemplation of the specific and the timeless, the finite and the infinite. This exhibition also includes early twentieth-century prints by John Taylor Arms, Gustave Baumann, Kerr Eby, Frances Gearhart, Childe Hassam, Blanche Lazzell, Grant Wood, and many others. Among the contemporary artists represented are John Beerman, April Gornik, Michael Mazur, and Susan Shatter, as well as other examples from the Zimmerli’s Rutgers Archives for Printmaking Studios.

Blanche Lazzell

West Virginia Hills, 1919

Color woodcut

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers 

Museum Purchase, Ralph and Barbara Voorhees Fund

Painting for the Grave: The Early Works of Boris Sveshnikov

Self-Portrait by Boris Sveshnikov
Apr 06, 2008 - Oct 12, 2008
DuBrow Gallery

This show focuses on oil paintings and drawings produced between 1940 and 1961 by the Soviet artist Boris Petrovich Sveshnikov (1927-1998). During this period Sveshnikov developed his signature idiosyncratic style and produced a large number of his most intense artworks. All works in the exhibition are part of the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union.

In 1946, when the nineteen-year-old artist was still pursuing a degree at the Moscow Institute of Applied and Decorative Arts, a false accusation of terrorist activity was leveled against him; it completely changed his life. Like millions of other innocent Soviet citizens, Sveshnikov was incarcerated, denied a fair trial and sent to one of the Gulag labor camps where he remained until 1954. During the final years of his imprisonment, Sveshnikov was transferred from Ukhtizhmlag (Komi Autonomous Republic) to the Vetlosian camp, where he served as an indoor night watchman in a carpentry workshop. The nature of this position gave the artist an opportunity to produce a number of drawings in pencil and ink on paper that today comprise an important part of this exhibition and the Dodge collection.

Following his incarceration, Sveshnikov continued to work in his peculiar style of fantastic realism. Despite the fact that Sveshnikov is considered a powerful exponent of Russian nonconformist art, the artist never perceived himself as a dissident. On the contrary, Sveshnikov’s production is highly personal and apolitical. As the artist once stated, “What I painted at home I did for myself… All of my works are dedicated to the grave.”

Boris Sveshnikov


Oil on canvas

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union

Natvar Bhavsar: The Dimensions of Color

K-Etu by Natvar Bhavsar
Mar 11, 2007 - Jul 22, 2007
Voorhees Gallery

This exhibition presents about 50 paintings representing over 35 years of the career of Natvar Bhavsar (born 1934), one of the most prominent and respected artists of Indian heritage working in the United States. Bhavsar’s art is a fine example of how an artist can incorporate aspects of his traditional artistic culture and methods within modern western styles, modifying and adapting the earlier modes to create hybrid artistic forms. For Bhavsar, the cultural link is his use of brightly colored powdered pigments, similar to those used in the celebrations of the Holi festivals in India. By sprinkling, sifting, and scattering the dry pigments onto prepared canvas and paper surfaces, Bhavsar builds up expanses of intense, lush color. His technique and imagery associated him with the style known as Color Field painting, which emphasizes the visual and emotional potential of pure chromatic effects. 

Over the years, Bhavsar has created paintings in a remarkable range of sizes, from those less than a foot square to some extending more than twenty feet in width. This exhibition explores the varying effects achieved through this diversity of scale, demonstrating how the technical processes and abstract imagery are adapted to these shifts in dimensions. At times, similar compositional formats are presented in several sizes. In other works, extreme vertical or horizontal formats may evoke heightened responses or sensations from viewers.

In a monograph on the artist, Irving Sandler, a major historian of modern American painting, wrote that Bhavsar would “...consider a painting a boundless continuum of color. He wanted to evoke the Sublime as much as the older Abstract Expressionists had, but his Sublime was of an ecstatic and celebratory nature. In his works, viewers are enticed to lose themselves in luminous chromatic fields. The state of joy that Bhavsar aims to create is...calm, evoking the eternal, close to that of Nirvana.”

Natvar Bhavsar
K-Etu, 1974
Pigment on canvas
Collection Charles Peck and Leora Manne