Block Museum of Art Presents Tango with Cows. Book Art of the Russian Avant-Garde

The Block Museum of Art presents Tango with Cows: Book Art of the Russian Avant-Garde, 1910–1917. On view through December 11, 2011, in the Alsdorf Gallery.

Tango with Cows chronicles the dramatic transformation of book art during the tumultuous years before the Russian Revolution.

The exhibition takes its title from a book and poem by the Russian avant-garde poet Vasily Kamensky. The absurd image of farm animals dancing the tango evokes the clash in Russia between a primarily rural culture and a growing urban life. During the years spanning the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, Russia was in spiritual, social, and cultural crisis. The moral devastation of the failed 1905 revolution, the famines of 1911, the rapid influx of new technologies, and the outbreak of World War I led to disillusionment with modernity and a presentiment of apocalypse.

Avant-garde artists and writers responded to this crisis by collaborating on hand-lithographed publications that combined primitive and abstract imagery with experimental sound poetry to convey intense ambivalence about their country’s past, present, and future.

This exhibition has been organized by The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.

Image: Natalia Goncharova, art; Aleksei Kruchenykh, poetry, Hermit, in Pustynniki, 1913, lithograph. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California.

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