Soviet Kitsch in Utah

Posted: January 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

Some of you may be surprised to learn that our beloved Beehive State is home to one of the largest collections of Soviet Socialist art to be found anywhere. What?! Sure, just drive south an hour or so and check out the Springville Art Museum. They have acres of canvas there that might as well have been painted by our friend Repin.

The question arises though: Why would people around here want to collect such works? I’ll leave that question to you to answer. Click the image below to check out the museum’s extensive holdings. Notice that the painters are not referred to as Soviet however, but rather as “Russian” – in fact, at least a few artists are not Russian but Ukrainian. Also, the art is incorrectly called “Social”, rather than Socialist. What up with that?

0000001949_02

Kozhevnikov, Ivan Vasilevich
Election Day on the Collective Farm (1958)
SOCIAL REALISM
OIL ON CANVAS
46-3/8″ x 113-3/8 x 117.7

(Click for link to Utah’s collection of Soviet Socialist art)

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Comments
  1. Natalie Van Orden says:

    I live in Mapleton, Utah, just about two minutes away from this museum. I actually just went this last Saturday to see the annual High School Art Show, but it unfortunately was not finished being set up. Maybe the Springville Art Museum is a place our class could take a field trip to some weekend (it doesn’t cost any money to enter).
    I’ve been going to the museum and seeing the Social Realism exhibit since I was a kid. I think that part of the reason they have such a big collection is for historical reasons. The art isn’t bad to look at–it just looks like propaganda from our current perspective. While we may call these paintings “kitsch,” they are of historical importance because they show what art can become when creative freedom is limited.These paintings don’t pose a challenge to our eyes today, but they weren’t even a challenge to the Soviet Union’s government. Every painting is done in the same style. They even look like they could’ve been painted by the same artist. I think this is what art comes to look like when we lose our freedom of expression.

    • We’ll continue to discuss Soviet Kitsch in the next few meetings. My hope is to show why Greenberg considers it a serious problem. Much later in the semester we’ll see why more recent scholars consider Kitsch essential to exhibit.

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