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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

JCC plays home to Soviet Children

Although not typically regarded as a gallery space, the John Crystal Center last Wednesday unveiled a collection of sixteen lithographs produced by various members of the Soviet Artists Union during the early and mid 1970s. Located in the lower level of the JCC, the colorful exhibition entitled “Young Pioneers: Lithographs from Johnson-Horrigan Collection” presents vivid, utopic vignettes of Soviet youth culture during the 1970’s. Specifically, these state sanctioned pieces focus on and idealize the daily lives of children as a part of the Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union.
“Young Pioneers” currently showcases not only the work of individual artists, but the curatorial vision of Faulconer Gallery Intern, Caitlin Deutsch ‘12.
Articulating her initial interest in the subject matter, Deutsch presented a short and concise opening statement on Wednesday. “I really wanted to write a paper that focused [not] on artistic intentions, but on art’s role within a historical narrative,” Deutsch said.
While Wednesday’s opening marked the culmination of Deutsch’s research, she was first acquainted with the lithographs through an Art History seminar and her work at the Print Study Room, then later chose to closely study them through her Faulconer Gallery internship.
Before being housed and hung for the first time in the JCC’s art gallery, the 16 lithographs underwent a similar journey of sorts. According to Deutsch, the pieces originally belonged to a series of 600 lithographs bought by Grinnell alumnus, Eric Johnson ‘88, during a trip to Russia. The lithographs were later donated to the college in 1995.
As curatorial project, “Young Pioneers” broadly investigates how the agenda of Socialist Realistic art functioned as political propaganda, but was ultimately at odds with the reality of Soviet children’s lives. More specifically, Deutsch showcases several Socialist Realistic lithographs that portray the central and spry presence of competitive sport in the lives of Soviet youth. Represented in tightly composed works as well as bold colors, these various scenes present an otherworldly strangeness in a seemingly unassuming gallery space.

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