PHILADELPHIA —- “Laughing Matters: Soviet Propaganda in Khrushchev’s Thaw, 1956-1964” opens at the University of Pennsylvania’s Arthur Ross Gallery on April 9. The exhibit presents 25 posters and other visual materials, most on display in the U.S. for the first time, of Soviet propaganda from the Thaw, the period of post-Stalinist liberalization during Nikita Khrushchev’s leadership of the Soviet Union.
Curated by Liliana Mikova, curator of academic programs at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, who earned a doctorate at Penn, and Masha Kowell, a doctoral candidate in the Department of the History of Art at Penn, the exhibition highlights the shift from heavy-handed Socialist Realist iconography to vibrant, comic images found in the political propaganda of the Thaw. Reminiscent of cartoons and drawing on the aesthetics of 1920s Russian avant-garde, the posters in “Laughing Matters” rely on humor and light-heartedness to reach a Soviet population desensitized by decades of prescriptive political language.
The opening reception will take place at the Gallery on Friday, April 9, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The curators will lead a tour of the exhibition on Saturday, April 10, at 2 p.m.
Special events include a scholarly symposium, “The Thaw: Visual Culture and Beyond,” which brings to Penn prominent specialists in the field of Soviet art, history, film and literature and which constitutes the first scholarly gathering of its kind in the U.S.
Sponsored by Penn’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, the symposium will be at the Max Kade Center, 3401 Walnut St., on Friday, April 9, from 9 a.m.- to 4 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
In addition, Richard Hodges, director of Penn’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, will speak on “Khrushchev’s Fateful Visit to Albania, 50 Years On” at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 27, at the Gallery.
Additional support for “Laughing Matters,” which runs through June 27, is provided by the Department of the History of Art.
The Arthur Ross Gallery is at 220 S. 34th St. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and weekends, noon-5 p.m.
Additional information is available at 215-898-2083 or www.upenn.edu/ARG.