|"Woman in Pink" - undated. Soviet Union|
Here on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles, we came upon something surprising. An open air gallery of paintings.
The Wende Museum is a quirky little institution in Culver City. According to its mission statement, it "preserves the cultural artifacts and personal histories of Cold War-era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to inform and inspire a broad understanding of the period and its enduring legacy."
Its collection numbers over 60,000 items ranging from works of art to everyday utensils, to sinister tools of bureaucratic oppression, and in addition to being a museum, it serves as an educational institution. Since August 25, 2011, its installation "Across / The Wall" has been drawing curious viewers on the sidewalk of Main Street between 4th and 5th.
"Across / The Wall" marks the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Wall. On a flat, red-painted wall, sixteen reproductions of Soviet-era portraits are displayed. The paintings are conventionally framed, and flanked with potted palms, just like in a real gallery. Seeing them on the street is a sudden surprise; then a delight; and then a curiosity.
|"Girl in Red and Black" - Soviet Union, 1954, Alexander Georgievich Gulyaev|
Each portrait has an accompanying information card. The card for "Woman in Pink" says:
Woman In Pink
Soviet Union, n.d.
Ivan Ivanovich Parkhomenko
Oil on cardboard
14 x 11 inches
This careful rendering of a young woman in pink focuses on her face and casts it in a warm light. Its impressionistic style gives the surface texture and enhances the play of light across the woman's face. The portrait is as much a study of light and shade as it is an artistic exploration of character and personality.
Young women, distinguished professors, imperious matriarch, slightly uneasy self-portraits - you stand on a gritty sidewalk in Los Angeles and the faces look out at you from across the barrier of years, culture - and that wall, now dissolved into dust.
Pretty cool. The installation is up through December 13, 2012. If you're in Los Angeles, go see it.