September 9, 2015 - The Jewish Museum - The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film
September 9, 2015

The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film

Alexander Rodchenko, Stairs, 1929–30. Gelatin silver print, 7 1/2 × 11 1/2 inches. Sepherot Foundation, Vaduz, Liechtenstein. © Estate of Alexander Rodchenko (A. Rodchenko and V. Stepanova Archive) / RAO, Moscow / VAGA, New York.

The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film
September 25, 2015–February 7, 2016

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Ave at 92nd St
New York, NY 10128
Hours: Friday–Tuesday 11am–5:45pm,
Thursday 11am–8pm

T +212 423 3200
F +212 423 3232

The exhibition
From early vanguard constructivist works by Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky to the modernist images of Arkady Shaikhet and Max Penson, Soviet photographers have played a pivotal role in the history of photography. Covering the period from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution through the 1930s, this exhibition explores how early modernist photography influenced a new Soviet style while energizing and expanding the nature of the medium—and how photography, film, and poster art were later harnessed to disseminate Communist ideology. The Power of Pictures revisits this moment in history when artists acted as engines of social change and radical political engagement, so that art and politics went hand in hand. 

In a country where 70 percent of the population was illiterate, photographic propaganda was often more valuable than newspaper editorials. Lenin himself declared that the camera, as much as the gun, was an important weapon in “class struggle.” Recognizing that images had the power to transform society, Lenin put photography at the service of the Revolution, thereby serving as a historical demonstration of how artistic and political ambitions can coalesce and fortify one another. The Power of Pictures will illustrate that this work encompassed a much wider range of artistic styles and thematic content than previously recognized.

“The innovations of early Soviet lens-based art are remarkably relevant—even prescient—for our contemporary moment,” said Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Public Programs and co-curator of the exhibition. “In a time when the relationship between art and politics is ill-defined, it is opportune to look back at a period of enormous synergy between artistic creation and extreme political action.”

In addition to a stunning collection of photographic and cinematic works, The Power of Pictures features a rich array of film posters and vintage books that employ radical graphic styles with extreme color, dynamic geometric designs, and innovative collages and photomontages. Also presented are examples of periodicals in which major photographic works were published.

The Power of Pictures exhibition catalog is published by the Jewish Museum and Yale University Press. By Susan Tumarkin Goodman and Jens Hoffmann, the 240-page book includes an essay by Alexander Lavrentiev, Moscow-based art historian, grandson of the photographer Alexander Rodchenko, and Director of the Rodchenko-Stepanova archive, and features 148 color and 30 black-and-white illustrations.

The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film is organized by Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Public Programs, and Susan Tumarkin Goodman, Senior Curator Emerita.

Artists in the exhibition:
Boris Ignatovich / Elizaveta Ignatovich / Olga Ignatovich / Yakov Khalip / Eleazar Langman / El Lissitzky / Moisei Nappelbaum / Max Penson / Georgy Petrusov / Alexander Rodchenko / Arkady Shaikhet / Georgy Zelma / Georgy Zimin

Filmmakers in the exhibition: 
Boris Barnet / Sergei Eisenstein / Mikhail Kalatozov / Grigory Kozintsev / Lev Kuleshov / Yakov Pratazanov / Vsevold Pudovkin / Esfir Shub / Victor Turin / Dziga Vertov

Designers in the exhibition:
Nathan Altman / Anatoly Belsky / Grigory Borisov / Mikhail Dlugach / Anton Lavinsky / Nikolai Prusakov / Semyon Semyonov-Menes / Georgy and Vladimir Stenberg

Film schedule at a glance:
For a full schedule and details, please visit the film calendar here

Mondays and Fridays
Mother,Pudovkin, 89 minutes

Salt for Svanetia, Kalatozov, 55 minutes

October, Eisenstein, 103 minutes

Storm Over Asia, Pudovkin, 125 minutes

Tuesdays and Saturdays
Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, Shub, 90 minutes

Turksib, Turin, 57 minutes

Man with the Movie Camera, Vertov, 68 minutes

Aelita: Queen of Mars, Protazanov, 111 minutes

Thursdays and Sundays
11:15 am 
By the Law, Kuleshov, 80 minutes

Battleship Potemkin, Eisenstein, 71 minutes

The House on Trubnaya, Barnet, 64 minutes

The Overcoat, Kozintsev, 84 minutes

Thursdays only, 5:30pm 
The entire film slate will run in rotation on Thursday evenings throughout the duration of the exhibition. 

Related public programs

A Closer Look Gallery talks
Tuesdays at 2pm: October 13–November 3 and January 12–February 2
Thematic explorations of select works of art on view in temporary exhibition galleries.
Free with museum admission

Dialogue and Discourse: Confronting the Political
Thursday, October 29, 6:30pm
Featuring artists Andrea Bowers, Sharon Hayes, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, this panel considers how art and politics have evolved together since the early 20th century. Moderated by Nato Thompson, Chief Curator, Creative Time.
Free with pay-what-you-wish admission; RSVP recommended

Bang on a Can: The Power of Pictures
Featuring Robert Black, the Hartt Bass Band, and friends
Thursday, November 5, 7:30pm
Bassist Robert Black anchors a program of chamber music by experimental Soviet composers, including a rare performance of Galina Ustvolskaya’s Composition No. 2 for piano, eight double basses, and one giant cube of wood.

Purchase Tickets

Power of Pictures Talkbacks
Film screenings followed by discussions in the exhibition gallery.

Sunday, November 8, 1pm
Michael Kunichika, Institute for Advanced Study, on Battleship Potemkin. (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925, 71 minutes) 
Free with museum admission; RSVP recommended

Thursday, December 3, 5:30pm
John MacKay, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Film and Media Studies, Yale University, on Storm over Asia. (Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1928, 125 min)
Free with pay-what-you-wish admission; RSVP recommended

The Wind Up: The Power of Pictures
Thursday, November 19, 8–11pm
The Museum’s after-hours series featuring artmaking, live performance, and gallery tours celebrates the innovative photography and film on view in The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film

This program is made possible in part, through the generosity of Genesis Philanthropy Group.

Purchase Tickets


The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film is made possible by the Eugene and Emily Grant Family Foundation, The David Berg Foundation, Andrew and Marina Lewin Foundation, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Exhibition Fund.

Programming and marketing support for this exhibition is provided, in part, by the Genesis Philanthropy Group.

Public programs at the Jewish Museum are made possible by endowment support from the William Petschek Family, the Trustees of the Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Foundation, Barbara and Benjamin Zucker, the late William W. Hallo, the late Susanne Hallo Kalem, the late Ruth Hallo Landman, the Marshall M. Weinberg Fund, with additional support from Marshall M. Weinberg, the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Foundation, the Saul and Harriet M. Rothkopf Family Foundation, and Ellen Liman.

Additional support is provided by Lorraine and Martin Beitler and through public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Jewish Museum presents The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film
The Jewish Museum
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