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Love and Revolution

Artist Couples in the Russian Avant-Garde

01.06  -  01.10.2017

On the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution, the MAN Museum is pleased to announce the opening of the exhibition entitled Love and revolution. Artist Couples in the Russian Avant-Garde, from July 1st to October 1st 2017. 

The exhibition has been organized through the joint efforts of the State Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow, the Schusev State Museum of Architecture of Moscow in collaboration with the Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna. Curated by Heike Eipeldauer and Lorenzo Giusti, it assumes an innovative standpoint, that of artist-couples, to revisit the experience of Russia's avant-garde in the visual arts through the contribution of six artists of the first generation, joined together by their search for new expressive languages as well as their lives together: Natalya Goncharova (1881–1962) and Mikhail Larionov (1881–1964), Varvara Stepanova (1894–1958) and Alexander Rodchenko (1891–1956), Lyubov Popova (1889–1924) and Alexander Vesnin (1883–1959). 

Destined to attract a variegated public, not limited to lovers of the history of art, but also to aficionados of 20th-century history, communication, design and photography, the exhibition aims to narrate the close bond between art and life that these couples found themselves experimenting in a period of intense cooperation and profound commitment, both artistic and political. Through a nucleus of more than a hundred works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, collages, photographs, advertising material and political propaganda, the exhibition examines their working methods, techniques and languages, with emphasis on the points of contact but also on their specificities and thus the different profiles of the artists presented

United by the ambition to connect all genres of artistic creativity through aesthetic action, theoretical elaboration and political perspective, artists of the avant-garde contributed to nurturing the aspiration towards change and laying the foundations of a new idea of society. 

Characterized by great productivity, the movements that came to life under the propelling force of the Bolshevic Revolution in 1917 brought to the forefront not only an unprecedented number of women artists, just as active as the men, but also an uncommon number of couples, among whom the three involved in this project can be considered the most important and representative. Working side by side, sharing spaces, ideas and plans, the couples in the Russian avant-garde reached an indissoluble fusion of the private and public spheres, thus promoting and bearing witness to that utopian vision, that possibility of collective creation that the revolution had fostered together with the great ideal of equality of the sexes as an alternative to the fable of art as the realm of the solitary genius. 

What artistic aspects and social ideals are predominant in the careers of these couples? Did this working together as the instrument of emancipation truly function, or did the gender conventions continue to influence artistic production and its reception by the public? With these fundamental queries, the exhibition at the MAN intends to trace a genealogy of the Russian avant-garde, from the beginnings around 1907, under the influence of the experiments in Western modern art, up to the development of the more renowned artistic movements of the 1910s and 1920s, the crux in the development of the languages of the international avant-garde, starting from the Cubist-Futurism of Liubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova, passing through the Rayonism of Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov, who, like Popova, also participated in Malevich’s Suprematism, up to the experimentation with different criteria of functionalization of art within the framework of Constructivism frequented by Rodchenko, Popova, Stepanova and Vesnin, with a final consideration of the languages of Stalin's totalitarian propaganda during the 1930s.


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