Tales of War: A Selection of Works on Paper from the Claude and Nina Gruen Collection of Contemporary Russian Art

Mask Sorry oil on canvas by Natalia Nesterova
Jan 01, 2014 - Apr 23, 2014
Dodge Wing Lower Level

This exhibition presents a selection of prints, drawings, and artists’ books from the Claude and Nina Gruen Collection of Contemporary Russian Art, which was given to the Zimmerli in 2005. A selection of paintings from the Gruen Collection is also on view in the next room.  

The focal point of Tales of War is People be Aware!, an album of thirty-nine photomontages by Alexander Zhitomirsky (1907-1993). He is renowned for his political caricatures, the most famous of which were produced during World War II for the Soviet publication Front-Illustrierte. This journal was aimed as demoralizing propaganda among the Nazi troops and distributed from planes above the enemy trenches. Zhitomirsky’s works produced such an impact on the Nazi soldiers that his name was on Hitler’s “most wanted” list. In the postwar years, Zhitomirsky’s photo-caricatures continued to reflect the political interests of his time as products of the Cold War, exposing tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States.  

Other works in the exhibition relate to Zhitomirsky’s album through a variety of approaches to the theme of war. Works by Aleksandr Florenskii (born 1960) showcase the military regiments through a presentation of the weapons and ammunition from different periods of Russian history, while the book General Instructions/Another Name, by Grisha Bruskin (born 1945) and Lev Rubinshtein (born 1947), evokes lessons in anti-nuclear defense. Maxim Kantor (born 1957)—an artist renowned in Europe but little known in the United States—revives an episode from the military history of Ancient Rome by projecting it onto the twentieth century. The works in this gallery also complement the topics of war, history, and humanity with themes of individual perception and contemplation, such as in Encounter with an Angel by Ilya Kabakov (born 1933) or Envelope by Vladimir Nemukhin (born 1925).  

Organized by Julia Tulovsky, Ph.D., Associate Curator for Russian and Nonconformist Art

Supported by the Gruen Endowment Fund

Natalia Masterova

Mask Sorry, 1994

Oil on canvas

Claude and Nina Gruen Collection of Contemporary Russian Art