Humanism + Dynamite = The Soviet Photomontages of Aleksandr Zhitomirsky
At the Art Institute of Chicago until January 10
This exhibition provides an overview of the work of the Soviet political artist Aleksandr Zhitomirsky (1907–1993), who established his reputation as a leading propaganda artist in World War II, when he adopted the techniques of celebrated German photomonteur John Heartfield to striking effect. Zhitomirsky’s photomontage leaflets, dropped on German troops by plane as part of an extensive psychological warfare campaign, caught the attention of many Nazi troops and, reportedly, of Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. “Choose! Like This or Like That” read the pamphlets in German, inviting soldiers to lay down their guns to spare their lives or perish in the long Russian winter, as many did. The exhibition includes numerous examples of both propaganda leaflets and the original artwork for them.
Following the war, Zhitomirsky adapted his techniques and motifs to cover current events of the Cold War in the Soviet mass media: echoes of Hitler and Goebbels, for example, shaped representations of Harry Truman and Winston Churchill. Over time, however, a roster of new objects, and particularly animals, came to life in Zhitomirsky’s work.
Accompanying the exhibition is my extensive monograph on Zhitomirsky that gives the first thorough review of his career and methods in any language. The book includes English-language excerpts from Zhitomirsky’s memoir, The Art of Political Photomontage; correspondence and writings relating to Zhitomirsky’s long-distance friendship with Heartfield; and a thorough reference guide to his published montageshttp://yalebooks.com/book/9780300219180/aleksandr-zhitomirsky
Associate Professor Erika Wolf
Department of History & Art History
University of Otago
P.O. Box 56
Dunedin, 9054 AOTEAROA/NEW ZEALAND