We had an invitation to a private view of A Game In Hell. The Great War In Russia at GRAD. That's the Gallery for Russian Arts and Design I wrote about previously on this blog. As we enjoyed the last show there we decided to check it out again as they were showing the work of some of our favourite Russian artists, such as Malevich, who I've also written about on this blog. So we met up for dinner and had fish and chips (probably a good idea considering what we drank later) and then took ourselves along to Little Portland Street (just behind Oxford Street).
I intended to studiously take notes so I could blog about it but things soon started to go awry when we were offered some distinctly Russian cocktails made with Vodka; one being the 'White Russian' and another one made with ginger beer, the name of which I have forgotten. Mmmm, yes, these were very nice indeed!
However, due to this general imbibing I didn't quite achieve what I wanted but here's a bit of an idea of what it's all about...
The exhibition aims to show the response to the First World War in Russia with satirical prints, cartoons and illustrated periodicals. The subject matter is often heavily politicised depicting Allied victories or vilified enemies and acts of great bravery. Various vehicles put these ideas across in the form of books, poetry, prose, collage, woodcuts and watercolours. Often these pieces are traditional in execution but reveal radical and experimental ideas and strong tendencies towards Russia's artistic avant-garde.
A lot of the exhibition is viewed under tabletop glass, and there are photographs, films, large posters and a really great historical timeline on the surrounding walls, which also relates to what was happening in European art around the same time. The photographs and films give a personal touch to the forgotten histories of the people who fought in the war.
Work can be seen by Kazimir Malevich, Olga Rozanova, Aleksei Kruchenykh,Velimir Khlebnikov and Pavel Filonov and Natalya Goncharova amongst others.
We particularly liked a futurist book titled 'Explodity' by Aleksei Kruchenykh from 1913 made with watercolour and ink on paper.
We couldn't help thinking afterwards about how extreme hardship can produce such creativity, it brings to mind this quote from Harry Lime in the film, The Third Man:
“In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.”
This exhibition is on until 27th November and would be well coupled with another show on at the Photographers' Gallery which is just on the other side of Oxford Street This one is on until 19th October and called Early Colour Photography in Russia where you can marvel a pieces like this one below.
'BE READY!' 1932
Photomontage by Vavara Stepanova