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Collective Body

Aleksandr Deineka at the Limit of Socialist Realism


 A study of the Socialist Realist aesthetic focusing on the artist Aleksandr Deineka.
Dislodging the avant-garde from its central position in the narrative of Soviet art, Collective Body presents painter Aleksandr Deineka’s haptic and corporeal version of Socialist Realist figuration not as the enemy of revolutionary art, but as an alternate experimental aesthetic that, at its best, activates and organizes affective forces for collective ends. Tracing Deineka’s path from his avant-garde origins as the inventor of the proletarian body in illustrations for mass magazines after the Revolution through his success as a state-sponsored painter of monumental, lyrical canvases during the Great Terror and beyond, Collective Body demonstrates that Socialist Realism is best understood not as a totalitarian style, but rather as a fiercely collective art system that organized art outside the market and formed part of the legacy of the revolutionary modernisms of the 1920s. Collective Body accounts for the way the art of the October Revolution continues to capture viewers’ imaginations through the sheer intensity of its evocation of the elation of collectivity, making viewers not only comprehend but also truly feel socialism, and retaining the potential to inform our own art-into-life experiments within contemporary political art. Deineka figures in this study not as a singular master, in the spirit of a traditional monograph, but as a limited case of the system he inhabited and helped to create.

352 pages | 82 color plates, 73 halftones | 8 1/2 x 11

Art: Art--General Studies, European Art

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