Art and Science from the Soviet Union Intersect at the Bruce Museum

Cosmonaut Anatoly Berezovoy, oil on canvas.

Ksenia Nouril, a New York-based curator and scholar of modern and contemporary Central and Eastern European art, talks about an oil and canvas portrait depicting cosmonaut Anatoly Berezovoy (1942-2014) from the series “Cosmos in the Service of Peace.” In 1982 Berezovoy was the commander of the first mission to the space station Salyut 7, spending 211 days in space. Painted by Mikhail Borisov (Russian, b. 1950; lives and works in Moscow) From the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union.

On Friday the Bruce Museum held a press open house featuring a vodka tasting and tours including the exhibit: Hot Art in a Cold War: Intersections of Art and Science in the Soviet Era.

Ksenia Nouril, curator of the exhibit, worked with Daniel Ksepka, the museum’s Curator of Science, to pair art with artifacts and give viewers a look into the lives of those who experienced the Cold War while living in the Soviet Union.

The works on display were produced between the 1960’s and 1980’s – spanning the nuclear arms and space races between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Drawings, sculpture, scientific models, and prints helped to tell short stories relating to the races; such works included pictures of Laika – the first dog in space – and images of young students wearing protective suits and gas masks.


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The works on display, many of which are on loan from the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection, were made as a form of resistance to the state mandated style of Socialist Realism.

Socialist Realism grew out of the union’s desire to regulate the artistic freedoms of the public, but nonconformists continued to make art that protested this sanction. Artists such as Boris Mikhailov used photography to subtly challenge the Soviets; the clashing colors of Mikhailov’s photos adds to their unsettling nature.

By contrasting the bleak images of Soviet lifestyle during the war with bright colors, Mikhailov is able to draw the viewer in and make them question the state of the union.

Bruce Museum's Cynthia Ehlinger and Margaux Ancel

Bruce Museum’s Cynthia Ehlinger and Margaux Ancel. Feb 2, 2018

press tour

At Friday’s press tour, Bruce Museum’s Director of Exhibitions Anne von Stuelpnagel, with Anne Semmes and Avery Barakett. Feb 2, 2018.

Other works featured in the show were created as wartime pro-Soviet propaganda; Ferocious Appetite, by Aleksander Zhitomirsky, transforms an American general into a destructive monster. Art created in the Soviet Union during the Cold War represents the opinions of those that experienced it – just as art was created in support of the war, nonconformists created art to protest it.

In addition to the variety of artforms on show in the gallery, artifacts from the Cold War – such as an Atomic Reactor, a dog space suit, and multiple models and prototypes – are also on display.

Bruce Museum’s Curator of Science Daniel Ksepka guided press through “Hot Art in a Cold War,” which continues through May 20. The exhibit explores the anxious realities and utopian fantasies of everyday Soviet life in the second half of the twentieth century.

Dr. Ksepka told viewers during the open house that he hoped to show them the “heights and low points of the nuclear arms race and the space race.”

While Ksepka lead the science portion of the tour, Ksenia Nouril stood at his side and guided viewers through the artistic highlights.

Ms. Nouril said she felt compelled – finally – to make an exhibition that she felt an American audience could relate to, remarking that everyone came to the gallery with at least a knowledge of what happened in America without knowing the other side.

Dr. Daniel Ksepka guided press through "Hot Art in a Cold War," which continues through May 20.

Dr. Daniel Ksepka guided press through “Hot Art in a Cold War,” which continues through May 20.

TP-82 survival pistol.

TP-82 Space Gun (replica) Perhaps the most striking item included in cosmonaut survival kits was the triple-barreled TP-82 survival pistol. Designed to fire shotgun cartridges, rifle cartridges, and flares, the gun could be used to both fend off a bear attack and signal for help. It also housed a machete.

Enlist. Bruce Museum, February 2018

Enlist! When Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany in 1917, the US had already begun to expand its military. Many young men, encouraged by posters depicting alluring women and the promise of adventure, volunteered. However, they were not enough to sustain an overseas conflict, and a draft was instated. That same year, Wilson asked prominent newspaper George Creel to head America’s official government propaganda agencies, which included the Division of Pictorial Publicity. With his abundant Midwestern charm and dashing good looks, Creel successfully rallied fine-art painters and popular commercial illustrators to produce posters for government and recruitment agencies such as the US Navy and Air Service. At the end of World War I, over 25 percent of the entire male population of America between the ages of 18 and 31 years of age was in military service.

The press tour also included an exhibit entitled Patriotic Persuasion: American Posters of the First World War, which  features a selection of works donated to the Bruce Museum by Beverly and John W. Watling III. This exhibit runs through June 3, 2018.

Moffly, Smith, Ksepka

At the press open house Jack and Donna Moffly greet Bruce Museum director of Marketing and Communications Scott Smith and Curator of Science Daniel Ksepka at the Bruce Museum. Feb 1, 2018 Photo Avery Barakett

Bruce Museum. Enlist!

The United States involvement in World War I lasted only a brief twenty months, from April 1917 to November 1918, but the nation’s military and propaganda strategies were of enormous consequence.

The Bruce Museum is located at 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, CT 06830. Tel. (203) 869-0376.

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Doors close 1/2 hour before closing. Last admission 4:30 pm.

Hot Art in a Cold War: Intersections of Art and Science in the Soviet Era exhibit runs through May 20, 2018.

Patriotic Persuasion: American Posters of the First World War runs through June 3, 2018

Dr. Daniel Ksepka guided press through "Hot Art in a Cold War," which continues through May 20.

Dr. Daniel Ksepka guided press through “Hot Art in a Cold War,” which continues through May 20.


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