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TRANSFORMATIONS: Living RoomFlea MarketMuseumArt

October 4, 2020 to April 11, 2021


WENDE

MUSEUM O F T H E C O L D WA R

TRANSFORMATIONS: Living RoomgFlea MarketgMuseumgArt

INTRODUCTION Words, images, and things can be turned upside down by crossing borders in time and space, and by traveling across cultures. A series of mostly peaceful revolutions culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in December 1991, effectively ending state socialism in Eastern Europe. This was not just a political watershed moment—it initiated a radical change in the material culture of daily life. Finally having access to a new world of consumer goods, many people living in formerly communist countries discarded the household and consumer items they had loved, hated, or simply taken as given. Objects associated with Cold War socialism ended up in dumping grounds and flea markets or were stored away in basements and attics. However, with passing time and an increasingly critical attitude toward the realities of life in post-socialist society, historical memory shifted and a new interest in the cultural heritage of socialism developed. Flea market items rose in value and prestige, and museums hesitantly started to acknowledge the significance and aesthetic value of Soviet Bloc artwork and artifacts. Once included in archives and museums, these materials became available for artistic appropriation and reinterpretation. Through a four-part passage from living room to flea market to museum to art studio, Transformations presents the metamorphosis of everyday objects in radically different contexts, highlighting how the ever-changing interpretations of the past are consistently informed by present-day views and concerns. The Wende Museum thanks the participating artists Chelle Barbour, Ken Gonzales-Day, Farrah Karapetian, Richtje Reinsma & Daphne Rosenthal, Jennifer Vanderpool, and Bari Ziperstein. Thank you to Alisa Keegan for the mural. Special thanks to Odile Madden, Jeanine Koeppen, and the Getty Conservation Institute for their generous loan of equipment. Transformations is organized by Joes Segal and Anna Rose Canzano, with support from Sean Buchanan. Cover image: mural of a composite Eastern Bloc cityscape by Alisa Keegan


Living Room


Living Room


Living Room


Living Room


Living Room


Living Room


Living Room


Living Room


Living Room


Flea Market


Flea Market


Flea Market


Flea Market


Flea Market


Flea Market


Flea Market


Flea Market


Museum


Museum


Museum


Museum

In the GDR, workers who significantly exceeded production quotas were known as Heroes of Labor, and honored by the leading Socialist Unity Party (SED). The miner Adolf Hennecke surpassed the standard quota for coal mining on a single day by nearly 400%. To celebrate his achievement, a statue was commissioned from the Meißen porcelain factory close to Dresden, one of Europe’s finest producers of porcelain since the early eighteenth century. Hennecke (1905–1975) had been active in the opposition to Hitler’s National Socialist movement. His name was lent to the Hennecke “activist” movement, which sought to radically increase coal production and for which he received numerous awards. He was elected to the East German parliament in 1950 and later became a member of the Central Committee of the SED.

Miner (Adolf Hennecke), 1950s, porcelain, East Germany


Museum

A typical representative of the Ukrainian art school, Kaplan graduated from the Kiev Art Institute in 1930 and served in the Soviet army during World War II. Many of his works, such as To Go into Battle as a Communist (1944), Meeting of War Friends in Berlin (1947), and Sturm Reichstag (1951), have political or war-related iconography. His works were featured regularly in official Soviet art exhibitions beginning in 1929. In this painting, Lenin is giving his first public speech on arrival from exile in Switzerland at the Finland Railway Station in Petrograd (present-day Saint Petersburg) on April 16, 1917. He is surrounded by revolutionary fighters and a sailor from the Aurora, the military cruiser that fired the first shot of the Russian Revolution.

Mark Yakovlevich Kaplan (1905–1990), Lenin Giving a Public Speech in Petrograd, 1917, 1969, oil on canvas, Soviet Union


Museum

During the Russian Revolution and the subsequent Civil War, the Bolshevik government sent trains across the country with pamphlets, films, speakers, and libraries to garner support for the new regime. Lukomsky depicted a scene at the train station with a locomotive about to leave. A woman at the center of the scene reads from a pamphlet, surrounded by attentively listening men in working clothes. During the revolution, a large percentage of the Russian population was illiterate, a situation that would improve considerably in the following decades through dedicated education efforts. The woman reading to the men points to the principle of gender equality, an important aspect of Soviet propaganda.

Ilya Abelevich Lukomsky (1906–1954), At the Station, 1950, oil on canvas, Soviet Union, Gift of Abby J. and Alan D. Levy Family


Museum

Spornikov often depicted traditional Socialist scenes, including oil workers, collective farmers, and soldiers. He worked predominately between Siberia and Ukraine and joined the Council of Artists of the Soviet Union in 1962, later serving as the group leader of the Ukrainian Artists’ Union. He participated in more than 60 exhibitions and maintained his reputation as an artist after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Spornikov was one of the few Soviet artists allowed to have exhibitions in the West and to sell his artwork abroad. This painting, in which Soviet women use flowers to create a representation of Lenin’s profile on a hillside, marks a rare departure from Spornikov’s generally apolitical work. It might have been commissioned in conjunction with International Workers’ Day (May 1).

Boris Aleksandrovich Spornikov (1930­–2005), Springtime, 1976, oil on canvas, Soviet Union


Museum

Lenin figurines like this one were produced in large numbers throughout the Soviet Bloc countries, and typically adorned the desks of Communist Party officials, trade union offices, or national youth movement headquarters. In many versions, Lenin’s right hand is raised, following the example of the Lenin monument at the Saint Petersburg Finland Station, in commemoration of his first speech after returning from exile in Switzerland in 1917.

Lenin with hat in raised right hand, bronze, artist and date unknown, probably Soviet Union


Museum

A Drei was a loose-leaf art magazine published by Frank Brettschneider, Claus Loeser, and later Bernd Weise. They asked friends to submit artworks, which were assembled in a portfolio that included text, graphic art, and photography. Published from 1983 to 1990, the magazine grew in popularity and issues were collected by major German art museums. The name A Drei refers to the A3 size of the portfolios. Each edition consisted of 25 to 30 artworks by different artists. Sixteen editions of A Drei were published, with a total of 276 artworks by 85 artists. 

Jörg Steinbach, Variation 7/2, silkscreen, 1985, A Drei, East Germany 

Christian Heckel, Cafe Venus, text drawing, 1985, A Drei, East Germany


Museum

Poplavski graduated from the renowned Repin Art Institute in Leningrad in 1940 and started to exhibit in 1946. Predominantly active in Kiev, he was a member of the USS­R Artists’ Union, won numerous awards for his contribution to Soviet art, and received the honorary title “Merited Artist of the Ukraine.” In this early work, the artist portrays a young woman with a colorful shawl around her shoulders holding a book in her lap. The later years of Stalin’s reign, 1946–1953, were characterized by a suffocating control over the arts. Artwork had to be optimistic and representative of the collectivist spirit of Soviet society. This intimate and reflective portrait seems at odds with these prescriptions, an impression reinforced by the book cover being blue instead of “communist” red.

Mikhail Konstantinovich Poplavski (1914–c. 1994), Woman Holding a Book, 1948, oil on canvas, Soviet Union


Museum

Portrait painter Bozhii graduated from the Fine Arts Technicum in his birthplace Nikolaev (Ukraine) in 1933. Active in Odessa, he was a successful Soviet artist, elected member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR, and honored as People’s Artist of the USSR. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia from 1979 praises him for the convincing expression of ethical beauty and inner worth in his portraits. The young woman in the painting wears a white dress with red ribbon decoration, a red head scarf, and a golden earring, referencing a new interest in Ukrainian folk culture and regional identity during the 1960s.

Mikhail Mikhailovich Bozhii (1911–1990), Woman in White-Red Dress, 1960, oil on canvas, Soviet Union


Museum

After graduating from the Repin Academy of Fine Arts in Leningrad in 1952, Lavrenko established himself as a successful portrait, genre, and landscape painter. He was a member of the Leningrad Union of Artists and taught at the Repin Institute. He was an Honored Artist of the Republic of Soviet Russia and later elected People’s Artist of the Russian Federation. This portrait from his student years shows a woman receiving a letter from the front during World War II, announcing the death of her son in action. It is a remarkable study of quiet grief. The topic must have been close to Lavrenko’s heart—he himself was an artillery soldier who joined the Soviet army all the way from Moscow to Berlin. The painting dates from the later years of Stalin’s reign, when artists were pressured to depict the heroic and future-oriented aspects of Soviet life.

Boris Mikhailovich Lavrenko (1920–2001), Mother, 1949, oil on canvas, Soviet Union


Museum

This monumental artwork depicts female workers marching, as their male counterparts did during World War II, towards the fulfillment of their Socialist duty. The women cultivate virgin lands using hoes instead of guns in their contribution to the expansion of Soviet power and the communist frontier. Stylistically, the work is indebted to late-nineteenth- and earlytwentieth-century painting, specifically the works of Ilya Repin and the Peredvizhniki (Wanderers) who traveled the Russian countryside in opposition to academic formalism. Large-scale propaganda paintings were often copied as the image was considered more important than the personal touch of the master painter. Another version of this work can be found in Kiev’s National Art Museum of Ukraine. P.V. Alekseev and B.I. Kaloev, In the Meadows, 1967, oil on canvas, Soviet Union


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Left to right, top to bottom: Zoltan Olcsai Kiss, Plan of a Monument; artist unknown, Two Workers with Smelting Crucible, n.d.; Yevgeny Vuchetich, Let us Beat Swords into Plowshares, n.d.; Klåra Herczeg, Workwoman, n.d.; artist unknown, Miner Adolf Hennecke, Meissen Porcelain, n.d.; Klåra Herczeg, Young Worker, n.d.; artist unknown, Female figure with watering can, n.d.; artist unknown, Lenin, standing figure, n.d.; artist unknown, Lenin, standing figure, n.d.; artist unknown, Lenin, standing figure with raised arm, n.d.; artist unknown, Lenin, 3/4 figure, n.d.; artist unknown, Lenin bust, Zsolnay Porcelain, n.d.; artist unknown, Lenin bust, Zsolnay Porcelain, n.d.; artist unknown, Lenin bust, n.d.; artist unknown, Pair of workers’ militians, Zsolnay Porcelain, n.d., All Wende Museum Artist Statement I was thinking about failed monuments and the question of what to do with them, both symbolically and politically. It is a question that comes out of my longstanding interest in rethinking the ways that historical absence is articulated and visualized by artists and cultural practitioners. I began by photographing works in the permanent collection. Monuments to Lenin were ubiquitous in former Soviet Bloc countries until they came tumbling down with the fall of the Berlin Wall. I saw parallels with our own time as moments pointing to slavery, colonialism, and the Confederacy are being removed across this nation. I wanted to create a work that might begin to suggest a new kind of history-making or history-marking, which does not erase the past but transforms it. In this case, I replaced Lenin with domestic objects depicting workers, laborers, and tradespeople. The composition itself draws on the traditional depiction of the Virgen de Guadalupe, but places a female worker at its center. I hope that this intervention encourages viewers to imagine what monuments they would leave for future generations.

Ken Gonzales-Day, Monumental Vision: Labor/Lenin, 2020, pigment print on vinyl


Art

Chelle Barbour, Rona and the Brave New World; Masked: A Haunting 2020; A Pigment of Your Surreal Imagination; 2020, collage on paper

Artist Statement I launched this project during the early stages of the pandemic in the U.S. While the coronavirus spread across Asia and Europe, I was inspired to create a three-panel visual narrative reflecting the potential transformation of daily life in America. I began thinking about nostalgia, transformation, and the idea of using household goods as metaphors for COVID-19 viruses, personal protective equipment (PPE), and life during this pandemic. The art pieces are produced through the lens of surrealism and afro-futurism and reflect individuals in a state of survival where masks and respirators are essential for existing. Rona and the Brave New World, 2020, is a visual critique of the juxtaposition of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unexpected healing of the planet. Full facial respirators and vintage rotary dialers are featured prominently and recontextualized as the COVID-19 virus. Masked: A Haunting 2020, 2020 is about the nefariousness of the pandemic and how rapidly it was spreading. This artwork portrays a woman surrounded by large clocks that are purely ideological in the transformation process. The clocks connote the essence of time and are allegories for the mutation of the COVID-19 virus. Other household items that have undergone complete change are the torso, which is constructed of a vase and rocking horse, and a face mask topped with a repurposed rotary dialer used as an air filter mask. In the artwork “A Pigment of Your Surreal Imagination,� 2020, I am processing the profound necessity of PPE as the pandemic spreads. The image depicts twins wearing gear that is fit for a space mission. Select household items that are altered include a red teapot as protective sleeves, telephone pads converted into visible specks of the virus, and a portable fan reduced to an air filtration face mask.


Art

Artist Statement I created Comrades Nikifor and Ksenia in memory of my Ukrainian grandparents. This triptych portrays an imaginary realism of reality and fanciful family lore about their life. I fabricated the compositions by abstracting and repurposing imagery from the Wende collection, complementing this with details from some found historical ephemera and others from my collection of family photos, Ukrainian material culture, and Soviet clothing and lifestyle.

Jennifer Vanderpool, Comrades Nikifor and Ksenia, 2020, digital collage on vinyl


Art

Farrah Karapetian, Extra Credit, 2020, video

Artist Statement Extra Credit reimagines Springtime, the 1976 painting by Boris Aleksandrovich Spornikov of female workers using flower petals to construct a mural depicting Lenin. I was fascinated by this painting because of the amount of faith those women must have had in the ideas Lenin represented, and because I could not imagine what or who now could command that kind of faith. I asked a network of my peers to ask their students in what or whom they believe; many were given extra credit for their participation. I sorted their responses and provided them to the Voices 21C chamber choir and artist collective, members of which elected certain phrases to improvise alone, under lockdown orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the key of B flat major. I chose B flat major due to its historical connotations—Christian Schubart’s Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst (1806), one of the most influential descriptions of shared characteristics in late-eighteenth-and early-nineteenthcentury German-speaking cultures, describes the key as evocative of “aspirations for a better world.” I then constructed a sound sculpture out of their contributions, which plays over the image of my hands, picking petals off of flowers in every color of the rainbow. Before you can begin to depict what you believe, today, I thought, you have to ask the question, and you have to do this work: Who knows which colors would be relevant to the building of a symbol that reflects the diversity of today’s beliefs?


Art

Artist Statement A selection of personal, office, and toy telecommunication devices made and used in the former Eastern Bloc during different periods of the Cold War are closely being watched with a macro lens. Meanwhile, the recorded voice of Sasza Malko—a now Dutch journalist from the former Polish People’s Republic—reflects on his memories and coping strategies concerning being wiretapped as a young man. We made this film as part of a collaboration project during a residency at the Wende Museum in 2015.

Richtje Reinsma and Daphne Rosenthal, The Third Ear: A Taped Memory, 2015, video


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Artist Statement Family is the Law is a life-size ceramic sculpture in-the-round, and the largest piece I have yet made. This figurative piece began as a small sculpture based on a Soviet-era poster and evolved into a monument for/of my own family. Similar to previous works, Family is the Law originated from a series of anti-alcohol posters from the Soviet Union (I frequently use research of Soviet-era posters, textiles, and architecture to investigate propaganda). This large-scale piece was initially meant to explore a more physical relationship to its original flat image, but took on a different meaning, as it was still in progress when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The piece took on a new meaning for me, one about my own family, as I sculpted a father, mother, and son. Family is the Law became my monument to my own husband and son–essential to my own adaptation and healing in a time of crisis and unknowns.

Bari Ziperstein, Family is the Law, 2020, terracotta and glaze


WENDE

MUSEUM O F T H E C O L D WA R

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Transformations: Living Room -> Flea Market -> Museum -> Art  

This exhibition is currently on view through our virtual portal. To enter the exhibition, please click on the exhibition title on the front...

Transformations: Living Room -> Flea Market -> Museum -> Art  

This exhibition is currently on view through our virtual portal. To enter the exhibition, please click on the exhibition title on the front...

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