A blood red river flows from the doors of the “Church of Saint Trifon,” an otherwise black and white work from 1979 by artist Tatiana Levitskaia.
Alongside a horse-drawn cart, peasants — “Fiddler on the Roof”-like — make their way up to Calvary in Anatolii Slepyshev’s “The Procession,” a four-panel oil painted in 1983.
“Protection of the Virgin,” “Altar” and “Holy Doors” are cast in the stark, angular geometrics of the Soviet Constructivist style in Petr Pushkarev’s black and red 1989 triptych.
These are just a few of the 70 works now on display in south Minneapolis at the Museum of Russian Art in “Concerning the Spiritual in Russian Art: 1965-2011,” an exhibit of what is called nonconformist art, nonconforming to Communist ideology.
Many of the works in the exhibit were part of the underground art scene in Moscow during the period when art with religious themes was banned from public display.
In spite of the ban, the show’s program explains, many Soviet artists focused on forbidden religious themes in their art, refusing to conform to the anti-religious stance of the government.
Other pieces were executed later, after “perestroika” and the fall of the Iron Curtain, and are expressions of faith and morality.
Large pieces like Alexander Zakharov’s “Jonah” and Olga Bulgakova’s “Return of the Prodigal Son” are don’t-miss works.
Anton S. Kandinsky’s dual images “Russian Soul — Russian Roulette” use life-like images of hand grenades decorated with gems to make a statement about society’s obsession with weapons.
There are surrealistic watercolors of angels and death, creative enamels of the Last Supper and St. George, crude wooden crosses, mixed media, photography, video and a wonderfully ironic poster, “We Buy and Sell Souls.”
Best of all, most of the pieces are accompanied by a brief explanation that help one understand what the artist was attempting to express.
If you go:
The Russian Museum of Art at 5500 Stevens Ave. S is just off I-35W at the Diamond Lake Road exit. Museum is open daily except major holidays.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: Adults $9; seniors $7
Tours: Free every Saturday at 1 p.m. and every Sunday at 2 p.m. Group tours available with prior notice; for details, call Lynda Holker at (612) 821-9045 or email her at email@example.com.