Art in Context

Students looking at the mysterious compositions of Viktor Pivovarov, the dreamlike landscapes of Boris Sveshnikov, or the amorphous figures of Vladas Zilius might describe them as striking or powerful. But would they understand these images as politically radical or subversive? Would they guess these artists risked their reputations, their livelihoods, and the threat of exile from their homeland to produce these images? As nonconformist artists during an era of intensely controlled Soviet art production, Pivovarov, Sveshnikov, and their contemporaries illuminate diverse ways in which Soviet citizens responded to, and resisted, state authority. Their work offers students the opportunity to consider how historical context informs the creation and interpretation of visual art and imagery.

This module includes background essays for educators, as well as a range of student activities suitable for social studies, humanities, or art classes, focused on observation, discussion, and response exercises. The background materials include a short history of Soviet nonconformist art, as well as definitions and artist profiles illustrating key visual concepts such as surrealism and conceptualism. Video resources for the classroom are also linked within this text.

For a print version of this module, please download the PDF version of Art in Context.