A photo from the “Total Red: Photography” exhibition.
(photo credit: GEORGI ZELMA)
The cliché has it that there’s nothing like a bit of hardship to get the creative juices flowing. That may or may not be the case when it comes to the individual artist, going through the mental and emotional grinder to produce a work worth its salt. But there is definitely something to be said for artists using their craft to convey ideas, and even take political stances, in a totalitarian regime. When it came to photographers in the Soviet Union taking shots that impart a subtext that, if expressed openly in a more direct verbal form, could have landed them in deepest Siberia, the resultant imagery exudes a sense of subliminal power, bursting at the aesthetic seams.The “Total Red: Photography” exhibition, on show at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art until February 10, certainly packs a punch. The works span around four decades, from the 1920s to the 1960s. That may not seem like a particularly wide stretch of time, but with respect to Soviet politics, you are talking seismic shifts aplenty. When Alexander Rodchenko took the stunningly intimate Portrait of the Artist’s Mother in 1924, Joseph Stalin had recently taken over the reins of power and things were still relatively loose in terms of freedom of expression. As we now know, Stalin developed into an iron-fisted leader who did his utmost to keep a firm lid on almost every avenue of individual enunciation.
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