Back in the USSR

Studying the Gulag at BU, Mexican women in art at Brandeis, and Pedro Reyes at Harvard
By RANDI HOPKINS  |  October 10, 2006


Grisha Bruskin, The Archeologist’s Collection

Gulag is the Russian acronym for the government agency that administered the famously harsh system of forced labor camps in the former Soviet Union, but it has come to refer more generally to that system of prisons and detention facilities, which was established in 1919 and reached significant numbers in the 1930s. By 1939, it is estimated that more than one million prisoners — including murderers and thieves along with political and religious dissenters — populated camps located mainly in remote regions including Siberia and the steppes of Kazakhstan.

“Territories of Terror: Mythologies and Memories of the Gulag in Contemporary Art,” which opens at the Boston University Art Gallery on October 24, examines Gulag history along with the mythology that has grown up around it. The exhibition features work by seven internationally known artists, including Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, Grisha Bruskin, and Leonid Sokov, who represent two different generations of ex-Soviet art. Each artist, or artist team, is given a “territory” in the gallery in order to confront what the press release calls “the haunted space of the ‘zone’ in history and in the individual psyche.” At the same time, the related “GULAG: Soviet Forced Labor Camps and the Struggle for Freedom,” a collaborative exhibition organized by the Gulag Museum of Perm, the International Memorial Society, the National Park Service, and Amnesty International USA, will be on view at BU’s 808 Gallery.

Daniela Rossell’s large-scale photographs of the trophy wives and daughters of Mexico’s political and social elite come together with Deborah Maddu Huacuja’s paintings and drawings of Mexican women including iconic artist Frida Kahlo in “The Richness of Mexico,” which is on view at Brandeis’s Women’s Studies Research Center through December 15. Both women examine the tradition as well as the current condition of women in Mexico, as seen through their individual cultural and artistic lenses. The free panel discussion “Portraying Mexican Women through Art” takes place at the WSRC on October 24, with panelists Louise Lopman, Silvia Arrom, and Roxanne Davila.

Mexican artist Pedro Reyes’s work takes many forms, often reflecting his training as an architect, his interest in bringing artistic practice into social settings and situations, and his collaborative nature. The first major Reyes retrospective, “Ad Usum: To Be Used,” opens in both the Carpenter Center’s main gallery and the Sert Gallery on October 26, to be accompanied by an artist’s talk that evening at 6 pm. “Ad Usum” highlights the artist’s exploration into the limits of the “usefulness” of art, showcasing his collaboration with the Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard.

“Territories of Terror” at BU Art Gallery, 855 Comm Ave, Boston and “GULAG” at BU’s 808 Gallery, 808 Comm Ave, Boston | October 24–January 14 | 617.353.3329 or | Panel Discussion: “Portraying Mexican Women through Art” at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center, 515 South St, Waltham | October 24 at noon | 781.736.8100 | “Pedro Reyes: ad usum: To Be Used” at Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts and Sert Gallery, 24 Quincy St, Cambridge | October 26–January 5 | 617.495.3251

On the Web
BU Art Gallery: http://www.bu.edu/art
Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center: http://www.brandeis.edu/center/wsrc
Visual Arts and Sert Gallery: http://www.ves.fas.harvard.edu

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