LEWISBURG, Pa. — Visitors to the Samek Art Gallery at Bucknell University beginning Oct. 24 will have an extraordinary exhibit-viewing experience. They will enter a recreated, aged, and furnished Soviet communal apartment interior and view a cramped salon-style exhibition, The Space of Freedom: Apartment Exhibitions in Leningrad (1964-1986).
Social justice and the right of freedom of speech and expression are the underlying themes of this remarkable exhibition, according to Dan Mills, curator of the Samek Art Gallery.
"The Communist Party banned art that didn't conform to the government's edicts from the 1950s through the early 1980s," said Mills.
Banned from public expression and demonstration, many artists creating in styles not permitted by the government organized short-term exhibitions, lasting a day or even a few hours, in their own communal apartments.
"Planning and staging these exhibitions, the artists defied the cultural impositions of an authoritarian regime that repeatedly demonstrated its resolve to suppress them," said co-curator Joseph Troncale.
"Holding an exhibition in one's home was considered to be a subversive activity, and the occupation 'unofficial artist' denoted a subversive member of society, even though it was the authorities that made him so," according to co-curator Sergei Kovalsky.
St. Petersburg museum
"Some of the most important artists working during the Soviet Period are featured in this selection from the collection of the Museum of Nonconformist Art in St. Petersburg, Russia," states Evgeny Orlov, co-curator and one of the exhibiting artists.
He continues, "Their installation in a re-created communal apartment suggests the context in which the work was made, exhibited, and discussed, and was so crucial to the birth and development of nonconformist art."
"Although the exhibitions were covert, as many as a thousand people would sometimes attend. Many artists suffered suppression, imprisonment and even death as a result of their participation," Mills said.
The exhibition includes 46 paintings, drawings, prints and photographs from the collection of the Museum of Nonconformist Art in St. Petersburg, Russia, which have not been exhibited together or in this manner of installation outside of Russia. The Space of Freedom was organized by the University of Richmond Museums and may be viewed through Dec. 9 in the Samek's main gallery.
Joseph Troncale, associate professor of Russian at the University of Richmond, and exhibition co-curator, will present a lecture, "The Creative Act as Unwitting Dissent in Soviet Underground Art," on Tuesday, Nov. 4, at 5 p.m. in the Gallery Theatre of the Elaine Langone Center.
Co-director of the Russian studies program at the University of Richmond, Troncale teaches Russian languages courses in addition to courses on Russian literature, Russian painting, Russian cinema, and the history of Russian cultural and intellectual development. Over the past 34 years, he has traveled extensively in the former USSR and Russia.
Running concurrently with The Space of Freedom exhibition is Collection Focus II: Transformed Spaces/Inventive Narratives in the Project Room.
Curated by Tulu Bayar, Bucknell assistant professor of art and art history, the exhibition focuses on important and emerging contemporary artists working in photographic media who transform and create spaces, and invent narratives ranging from mysterious to the mundane. Artists will include Julie Becker, James Casebere, Gregory Crewdson and Abelardo Morell.
Peace & Resistance series
The Samek exhibitions are part of the University's yearlong "Peace & Resistance" series, a multidisciplinary program that links the 25th anniversary of Bucknell University having an art gallery, the 10th anniversary of the Bucknell Brigade to Nicaragua, and 125 years of women at Bucknell. For more information, visit the Peace & Resistance page.
The Samek Art Gallery is located on the third floor of the Elaine Langone Center. Admission is free. Gallery hours are weekdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; weekends 1 to 5 p.m., and by appointment. The Gallery is accessible by elevator. For more information about the gallery, call 570-577-3792 or visit www.bucknell.edu/SamekArtGallery.xml
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