Andrew Edlin Gallery (134 Tenth Avenue, New York City) presents “Die, Nazi Scum,” an exhibition of Soviet TASS Propaganda Posters 1941-1945, until January 21.
Soon after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June of 1941, the Okna TASS studio spontaneously formed in Moscow. Comprised of renowned artists, poets and literary figures, the new consortium would oversee production of a powerful, extreme form of visual expression to urge Soviet citizens to fight on and ultimately do the nearly impossible – change the course of the war, the course of history.
Xenia Vytuleva explains in the gallery’s catalog that Okna TASS enjoyed a low degree of censorship. To work for TASS “meant being an artist of an entirely new type: a radical talent, a public person and a specialist in political and cultural work with the masses.” Artists included Pavel Sokolov-Skalia, Samuil Marshak (known for his children’s books), Osip Brik, Dem’ian Bednyi, among others.
Against a backdrop of horrific human loss (estimated at 20 million killed, 10 million missing), these propaganda posters (referred to as “TASS windows”) conveyed a “point of no return.” During the 1,418 days of the war, the group produced 1,240 posters. Preferring stenciling to lithography, and working in teams, the artists established an assembly-line method of production, painting posters in sections on individual sheets of paper to enable easy handling. Horror, sadness, fear, moral shock and visual unease – these sensations were counter-balanced against the vibrant palette, evocative caricatures and rich, painterly textures of the works. Nowhere else in the lexicon of wartime imagery had suffering and horror been portrayed in such an absurdist way. Nowhere else was the face of the enemy, Hitler’s portrait in particular, composed using twenty-five garishly bright colors.