Free Public Programs Explore Representations of Landscape in Soviet Nonconformist Art


Zimmerli Announces Free Programs that Explore Representations of Landscape in Soviet Nonconformist Art   


New Brunswick, NJ – The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers invites the campus community and general public to two free programs in conjunction with A Vibrant Field: Nature and Landscape in Soviet Nonconformist Art, 1970s–1980s. This is the first exhibition on a large scale to explore artists’ diverse creative approaches to the theme of the natural world. Approximately 60 objects – by artists and artist groups from the Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine – have been selected from the museum’s Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union. The Zimmerli is holding a reception for the exhibition on March 29 with a curator-led tour, followed by a screening of the 2015 award-winning documentary film Babushkas of Chernobyl. On April 20, the museum welcomes Dr. Jane Costlow, a distinguished professor from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, for a lecture on the subject of landscape painting in relation to environmental concerns and nature sensibilities in 19th-century Russia. Both programs are free and open to the public. For more details, please visit


The exhibition focuses on the intersection of art, nature, and ecology, bringing together works that challenged dominant tropes in Soviet visual culture, which tended to promote life-affirming, bountiful landscapes as extensions of human achievement, productivity, and optimism. Objects from a range of media address the entanglements between nature and culture during late socialism with a shared sense of urgency. While answering to specific Soviet realities, their work raises questions about one’s individual and collective relationship with the natural world that remain relevant, throughout the world, today.


A Vibrant Field: Nature and Landscape in Soviet Nonconformist Art, 1970s–1980s has been curated by Anna Rogulina, a Dodge-Lawrence Fellow at the Zimmerli and a Ph.D. student in the Department of Art History at Rutgers. She discusses the exhibition’s main themes – “Processes on the Earth,” “A Different System,” and “Traveling into the Green” – during a tour of the exhibition on March 29, at 4:30 p.m. A screening of Babushkas of Chernobyl, the 2015 award-winning documentary (in Russian and Ukrainian with English subtitles) by filmmaker Holly Morris, begins at 5:30 p.m. In 2010, Morris learned of some 100 women, now in their 70s and 80s, who defy government restrictions and scientists’ warnings against living inside the city of Chernobyl’s radioactive Exclusion (or Dead) Zone. However, this area surrounding the power plant where the 1986 nuclear disaster occurred encompasses their homeland, where they had survived Stalin’s forced famines and the Nazi occupation, and are now determined to spend their final years. The film explores how the women cultivate an existence on a toxic earth, isolated in abandoned villages guarded by soldiers and inhabited by a resurgent population of wild animals. While most of their neighbors fled years ago and their husbands gradually have passed away, the women demonstrate the subjective nature of risk and the healing power of shaping one's destiny. The documentary also puts a human face on pressing contemporary issues, including nuclear power, relocation trauma, the health consequences of environmental disaster, and mind-body effects on longevity. The tour is preceded by a reception. The program is free and open to the public.


On April 20, the public is invited to a lecture that explores the subject of landscape painting in relation to environmental concerns and nature sensibilities in 19th-century Russia, providing historical context for A Vibrant Field. The topic also reflects on how the ecologically oriented works by Soviet nonconformist artists might be understood in terms of environmental concerns, relevant not only during that era, but also today. Dr. Jane Costlow is the Clark A. Griffith Professor of Environmental Studies at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, whose academic training is in Russian literature and culture. She is fascinated by how writers, artists, and filmmakers use their talents in representing place – whether to protest environmental injustice or reveal the amazing beauties of the natural world. Costlow has published a major study of the forest in 19th-century Russian culture; co-edited a volume of essays on non-human animals in Russian culture and history; and written about Russian women writers. Together with colleagues in Finland, she is completing two edited volumes on the cultural meanings of water, both in Russia and across cultures. Professor Costlow teaches courses that focus on meanings of nature and senses of place in a diverse array of cultures and historical periods, as well as a course that explores disaster narratives – from Katrina and Chernobyl, to the “slow catastrophe” of climate change. This free program begins as 4:30 p.m. and is followed by a public reception.


A Vibrant Field is organized by Anna Rogulina, a Dodge-Lawrence Fellow at the Zimmerli Art Museum and a third-year Ph.D. student. Her research focuses on the intersection of art, nature, and ecology in the Soviet Union. Rogulina holds a B.A. in art history and Russian studies from Vassar College.


The exhibition is made possible by the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund, the Thickman Family Foundation, and the Dodge Charitable Trust -- Nancy Ruyle Dodge, Trustee.


Dodge Assistantships for Graduate Study

The Zimmerli offers Dodge Graduate Assistantships to doctoral candidates in the Department of Art History at Rutgers who are committed to research on unofficial art of the former Soviet Union. The program was established in 2002 with the generous support of the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund.


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

Over the last two decades, through the generosity of the late Norton T. Dodge and his wife Nancy Ruyle Dodge, some 20,000 works created between 1956 and 1986 by nearly 1,000 artists from Moscow, Leningrad, and the former Soviet Republics began entering the Zimmerli’s holdings. The Dodge Wing at the Zimmerli features a rotation of art by such leading nonconformist artists as Grisha Bruskin, Eric Bulatov, Ilya Kabakov, Vitaly Komar, Alexander Melamid, Irina Nakhova, and Oleg Vassiliev, among others, in a range of media. Curators also have organized a broad range of thematic exhibitions, including “Thinking Pictures”: Moscow Conceptual Art in the Dodge Collection, Dreamworlds and Catastrophes: Intersections of Art and Science in the Dodge Collection, Through the Looking Glass: Hyperrealism in the Soviet Union, and Leonid Sokov: Ironic Objects.



The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The permanent collection features particularly rich holdings in 19th-century French art; Russian art from icons to the avant-garde; Soviet nonconformist art from the Dodge Collection; and American art with notable holdings of prints. In addition, small groups of antiquities, old master paintings, as well as art inspired by Japan and original illustrations for children’s books, provide representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers. One of the largest and most distinguished university-based art museums in the nation, the Zimmerli is located on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Established in 1766, Rutgers is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and a premier public research university.



Admission is free to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. The museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street (at George Street) on the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli is a short walk from the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick, midway between New York City and Philadelphia.


The Zimmerli Art Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and select first Tuesdays of the month, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays, as well as the month of August.


PaparazZi Café is open Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a variety of breakfast, lunch, and snack items. The café is closed weekends and major holidays, as well as the months of July and August.


For more information, visit the museum’s website or call 848.932.7237.



The Zimmerli’s operations, exhibitions, and programs are funded in part by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and income from the Avenir Foundation Endowment and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment, among others. Additional support comes from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts and the Estate of Victoria J. Mastrobuono; and donors, members, and friends of the museum.



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