Represented as a 19-inch-tall bronze, a well-fed Lenin, his face scrunched in consternation, stares at an emaciated Giacometti-style everyman—the workers’ savior confronting one of his miserable charges. Mikhail Gorbachev, sporting blue eyeliner and with his pudgy face on a gilded background, is a sorry sibling of Warhol’s iconic Marilyn. Formally wise and riddled with fatalistic humor, this show of more than 50 nonconformist artists from the Soviet Union spans the furtive underground networks of the early ’70s—when clandestine dissidents worked under threat of arrest and with little hope of their work being seen (the KGB once bulldozed an outdoor exhibition)—through ’90s perestroika, with the empire too busy collapsing to bother jailing artists. These rebels clearly loved the freedom of Western art, but it was their own sublime and stoic culture, which has outlasted despots of all stripes, that kept them working through the darkest days.
Artists Against the State: Perestroika Revisited
31 Mercer Street
Through June 24