HAA 274K - Russian & Soviet Avant-Gardes





Maria Gough

What is the role of the artist in society? We will discuss this crucial and perennial question through the lens of the work of Russian and Soviet avant-garde painters, photographers, designers, and architects--many of them women--who participated in the building of the first socialist society in the early 20thC. How did artists redefine their own role and efficacy in the new social formation so as to realize the promise of the revolution? How was their utopian imagination made into material form, both pictorial and spatial? To what extent did their forms engender, rather than simply reflect, processes of emancipation and social transformation? Over the course of the semester we will trace the avant-garde’s continuous self-transformation between 1912 and 1936 from studio painters to spatial constructors to productivists to photographers to media workers to exhibition designers.