Deconstructing Perestroika: Soviet Ideology and Its Discontents

Thompson Gallery, San Jose State University, San Jose, California
August 27 to September 20, 2013

Boris pobeditel’ (Boris the Victorious) In collaboration with the Thompson Art Gallery, The Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War traveled Deconstructing Perestroika, the first major exhibition in the United States of hand-painted Soviet-era political posters that were inspired by a new government policy of transparency in the former Soviet Union. The exhibit, first mounted at the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM), highlighted some of the key political and cultural shifts that defined the era and ultimately led to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Starting in 1985, Gorbachev’s policies of Glasnost, or openness, liberalized Soviet society by allowing taboos to be questioned and, in the process, galvanizing people and encouraging them to talk and think freely for the first time.  During this period, East-West hostilities appear to evaporate and dissidents began to return from labor camps and exile.  Gorbachev’s parallel attempts to reform the economy through Perestroika, or re-structuring, perished like all other previous attempts.

Deconstructing Perestroika also illustrates the tradition of hand-painted poster design, known in Russian as avtorskii plakat. This art form can be viewed as an outgrowth of the traditional Soviet agitprop. The twenty-four works of art are unified thematically by a caustic satire that was made possible by Glasnost’s very insistence on freedom of speech. Yet this razor sharp critique also stems from the deeply rooted tendency of the Russian psyche to view political and cultural endeavors through the prism of irony in order to subvert, reject, or give new meaning to an official ideology or previous work of art.

There was an opening reception at the Thompson Art Gallery where Wende Museum Associate Director, Donna Stein lectured about the exhibition and the Museum.


Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, California
January 28, 2012 - May 6, 2012

Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery, San Jose State University, San Jose, California
August 27, 2013 to September 20, 2013