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Ian Alden Russell, Curator, David Winton Bell Gallery

Alexander Lembersky, “We Propose” (1988), silkscreen. (B95 97.48)

Late last week, I was preparing for a class visit by Stefan Gunn’s printing making and graphic arts students in the Brown Visual Art Department. Stefan was interested in inspiring his students with strong examples of formal imagery and typographic experimentation in the medium of print, and after a brief consultation of the Bell Gallery’s collections, we decided that the Bell Gallery’s lesser known collection of recent Soviet posters would be a unique body of works to show.

In this collection there is a total of approximately 280 posters from the Soviet Union produced between the late 1970s and late 1980s, with many strong examples of large-scale silkscreen prints. The subjects of the posters range from political issues to arts and cultural marketing to campaigns for social issues, and taken together constituted a remarkable show at the Bell Gallery in 1988 entitled “The Contemporary Soviet Poster.”

The example above is a silkscreen print by Alexander Lembersky – entitled “We Propose.” In the image, we see a bold, monochrome bomb being cut in two by a two-man saw created by the flags of the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Lembersky’s print is one of a discreet group within this poster collection that features anti-nuclear propaganda. A bold statement in favor of nuclear disarmament, Lembersky’s poster utilizes the structures and styles of formalist and constructivist propaganda inservice of a distinctly anti-Cold War message – an aspiration for a trans-national partnership between the United States and the Soviet Union in the deescalation of the nuclear arms race.

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