What we have seen - See USSR, Grad, London

Whilst in London recently we happened to notice a review in Time Out for a show at Grad a new gallery dedicated to Soviet art in Little Portland Street. An exhibition of post revolutionary posters hoping to entice Western intellectuals to that bold new land seemed to good to miss.

The gallery is one large bright room with huge posters adorning the walls and interesting supplementary material in central display cabinets. The clear, bold graphics and colours will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen a retro poster for a railway trip to Skegness from the 1930’s.

On reading the excellent explanatory notes, this it appears was exactly the point. The graphic style whilst retaining the boldness of the best Soviet propaganda was subtly altered for the curious western traveller. This was a time when much of the West was in a state of depression and the people from Intourist were keen to promote a sun-drenched land, heavy with buzz of high culture and glamorous travel. What of those frozen Russian winters? Well, there was always the chance for some winter sports; including bear hunting should the fancy take you! We also get a glimpse of work that is aimed at the domestic market. It’s interesting to note how this retains the more traditional propaganda approach.

Grad has given us a fascinating insight on a country, which was still deciding how to position itself after the revolution. Later of course the cold war put a block on travel to this part of the world, so much so, that I was genuinely shocked to see how much work the Soviet’s had once put into tempting us to see the fruits of their social experiment. Political theories aside, you can just relax a run your eye over some classic travel artwork.

The exhibition ran to the end of August 2013