Printmaking from Soviet Estonia

Leonhard Lapin: Man-Machine II, 1978
Apr 07, 2007 - Jul 29, 2007
Dodge Wing Lower Level

The Baltic republic of Estonia enjoys a long tradition of printmaking. Under Soviet rule, authorities mainly concentrated on censoring two art forms to ensure that creative work adhered to dictated norms: painting and the written novel. During the Cold War, graphic artists in the Estonia thus enjoyed a degree of creative freedom.   

The people of this republic struggled to retain their individual artistic heritages under the pressures of Soviet power and its officially sanctioned art of Socialist Realism. Expression of individual national identity, such as the depiction of Estonian flags, was forbidden by official policy. The graphic print, however, with its low visibility to censors, gave expression to a vast array of nonconformist subjects drawn from the distinctive cultures of the Baltics. 

The proximity of Europe, Finland in particular, provided Estonian artists with an access to the west that was less available to their counterparts in Moscow. Easily combined with the ideologically lax culture of printmaking, this relationship allowed artists an exchange with contemporary trends in art beyond the Iron Curtain – an exchange restricted by the regime in the rest of the USSR. Artists engaged Western Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art on an international level unique to the Baltics.

Leonhard Lapin
Man-Machine II, 1978
Screenprint on paper
Norton & Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union