Cast Me Not Away: Soviet Photography in the 1980s from the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection

Sergei Borisov: Dialogue Group, 1983
May 14, 2011 - Nov 13, 2011
Dodge Wing Lower Level

This exhibition is a photographic portrait of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. In over 50 works by 18 artists, it presents life as it was and showcases universal themes of human existence such as childhood, love, family, and rebellion of youth in the atmosphere of a very particular era.

The 1980s were years when Soviet society went from deep political and economical stagnation and apathy to the turmoil of abrupt political change. During a long period of “stagnation” the aging and ossified political elite tried to conceal the increasingly apparent crumbling of the Soviet system behind increasingly phony and ostentatious propaganda. In 1986 the new leader of the country, Mikhail Gorbachev, initiated the policy called perestroika that inspired the intoxicating feeling of freedom and led to the downfall of the communist system.

Overall, for the people of the country, the 1980s were years of relative stability. Deprived of initiative, they concentrated on their individual lives and experiences. Against this background, a new kind of unofficial Soviet photography emerged that took as its central attributes the private, the personal, and the intimate. If propaganda images reflected the views of the officialdom, the new photography expressed the views of its creators, offering a testimony of human experience. The new photography emphasized authenticity: the photographer’s genuine interest in the life of his subject, in spontaneous situations, and in the everyday world.

Cast Me Not Away presents a visual record of Soviet life just before this society, closed for decades, opened up to the rest of the world. The title refers to the work in the show by Vladimir Kupriyanov in which people, standing on the threshold of the new epoch, look into the future simultaneously with excitement and anxiety. Vulnerable to irony and criticism from the perspective of conventional standards of living of the Western world, their lives were, although very different, not necessarily unhappy.

Organized by Julia Tulovsky, Associate Curator of Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art

This exhibition is made possible by the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund.

Sergei Borisov

Dialogue Group, 1983

Gelatin silver print

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

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

Photo Peter Jacobs