A Photographic Portrait of 1980s Soviet Life on View at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Currently on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University is Cast Me Not Away: Soviet Photography in the 1980s from the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection, which presents a photographic portrait of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. In over 50 works by 18 artists, it captures 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 exhibition continues through November 13, 2011.

The 1980s were years when Soviet society went from deep political and economic 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 with both excitement and anxiety. Vulnerable to irony and criticism from the perspective of conventional standards of living of the Western world, their lives were, in the words of the exhibition curator, Julia Tulovsky, “although very different, not necessarily unhappy.”

The exhibition is curated by Julia Tulovsky, Ph.D., Assistant Curator for Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art


Wednesday, October 5, 5 to 9 pm
The Zimmerli’s Art after Hours program for October celebrates Cast Me Not Away with a reception, curator-led tour, screening of the 2009 film Perestroika, and readings of student poetry. Free with general admission.


The exhibition and related programming are supported by the Avenir Foundation
Endowment Fund.


The Zimmerli Art Museum’s permanent collection comprises more than 60,000 works, ranging from ancient to contemporary art and featuring particularly rich holdings in the areas of French art of the nineteenth century; Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art; and American and European works on paper, including prints, rare books, drawings, photographs, and original illustrations for children’s books.

The Zimmerli is midway between New York City and Philadelphia and a short walk from the New Jersey Transit station in New Brunswick.


The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street at the corner of George Street on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm, and Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 pm; first Wednesdays of each month, 10 am to 9 pm except August. The museum is closed major holidays and the month of August.

 Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for adults over 65; and free for museum members, Rutgers students, faculty and staff (with ID), and children under 18. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 732.932.7237, ext. 610 or visit the museum’s website: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu


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