What a mouthful. And what an exhibit!
Humanism + Dynamite at the Art Institute is the most shocking exhibit I’ve seen there in ages. Brilliant prints of India ink and original editions of propaganda magazines showing off the decades-long career of Zhitmirsky, a Soviet propaganda artist.
His job was to turn the German soldiers against their leaders in WWII. And then, he was tasked with turning the American people against our capitalist leaders throughout the Cold War.
Hundreds of prints depict controversial leaders, from Goebbels to Truman, akin to apes, fat cats, Hitler, and nuclear missiles. In his work, Zhitmirsky always appeals to the disenfranchised individual, whether it’s a German soldier fed up with his duties, or a poor American, feeling that the economy is unfair. He speaks to “you” in his illustrations, while depicting incredibly intimate and personal situations to strike a certain chord among his viewers.
Zhitmirsky’s most incredible feat is his ability to get you to examine yourself. Sure, Soviet propaganda isn’t a reliable method for basing judgement about the character of a country, but an exhibit like this reminds one to keep a skeptical eye, and that there is power in questioning authority. Doubt is a sign of intelligence, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study for your exams.
Have a Scien-tastic day!