Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago
Till January 22, 2012

The Soviet artist and designer Viktor Koretsky (1909–1998) created aggressive, emotionally charged images that articulated a Communist vision of the world utterly unlike that of conventional propaganda.

In the last thirty years of the Soviet Union, Koretsky’s art sought to ensure world Communism’s moral health. In contrast to more conventional Soviet propaganda—filled with happy workers, glorious leaders, and uplifting slogans—Koretsky created striking scenes of survival and suffering that were designed to create an emotional connection between Soviet citizens and others struggling for civil rights and independence around the globe.

This vision of a multicultural world of shared sacrifice offered a dynamic alternative to the sleek consumerism of Madison Avenue and the West and, according to the exhibition curators, can be thought of “as a kind of Communist advertising for a future that never quite arrived.”

Drawing on an extensive private collection of Soviet art and propaganda, Vision and Communism presents nearly ninety of Koretsky’s posters, photographs, and original maquettes. Together with the October 14 symposium Agitation!, a related book that explores the dissident public culture nurtured in the Soviet bloc, and a screening of films by Aleksandr Medvedkin and Chris Marker, Vision and Communism offers a striking new interpretation of visual communication in the USSR and beyond.


Curators: Robert Bird, Associate Professor, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, The University of Chicago; Christopher Heuer, Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University; Matthew Jesse Jackson, Associate Professor of Art History and the Department of Visual Arts, The University of Chicago; Tumelo Mosaka, Curator of Contemporary Art, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Stephanie Smith, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Smart Museum of Art; with Richard A. Born, Senior Curator, Smart Museum of Art, as coordinating curator.


Unless noted, all programs are free and open to the public and take place at the Smart Museum of Art. The public may register for lectures and workshops at

Opening Reception
Discover Viktor Koretsky’s challenging vision of the world during an introductory panel discussion with the curators followed by a reception and exhibition viewing.

Friday, October 7, 8–10:30 pm
Communist (Art) Party
UChicago students—drop by the Smart and make posters inspired by Soviet propaganda. Enjoy free food, short films, music, and engage in some Cold War-style diplomacy by connecting with rival students from Northwestern University. Open exclusively to University of Chicago and Northwestern students. Presented in collaboration with the Block Museum of Art.

Friday, October 14, 9 am–6:30 pm
Agitation! a Symposium
Special Collections Research Center, Joseph Regenstein Library, The University of Chicago, 1100 E. 57th Street. Join leading scholars for a public symposium that examines art and political agitation. The daylong event includes panel discussions and the keynote addresses “From Activists to Followers: Children in the Soviet Imaginary” by Catriona Kelly (University of Oxford) and “Neither God nor Master” by William Ayers (University of Illinois at Chicago) and Bernardine Dohrn (Northwestern University). Register to attend and find a full schedule of topics and speakers at Presented by the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies, Center for International Studies, Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures, Franke Institute for the Humanities, Special Collections Research Center, and University of Chicago Presents.

This symposium is part of a series of academic programs in Chicago devoted to discussing Soviet graphic arts. For information on October 13 and 15 events at Northwestern University and the Art Institute of Chicago, visit

Friday, October 21, 12 pm
Lunch-hour Talk: “Envisioning Another World and Taking on Big Enemies”
Learn about the triumphs and failings of African liberation struggles during the Cold War. This free talk is presented by Prexy Nesbitt, who currently teaches African History at Columbia College and has lectured extensively on issues of racism, war, and militarism. Space is limited. Please register in advance.

Saturday, October 22, 3:30 pm
Humanities Day Tour
Join exhibition co-curator Robert Bird, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at The University of Chicago, for a tour of Vision and Communism. Presented as part of the University of Chicago Humanities Day. Learn more at

Wednesday, November 2, 12 pm
Lunch-hour Talk: “Empire of Liberation? The Soviet Union, US Race Relations, and the Cold War”
Racial discrimination in the United States was a frequent subject in Soviet posters from the 1950s and 60s, but Soviet attitudes toward minorities was complicated. Examine the historical record behind the events depicted in Viktor Koretsky’s propaganda posters during this lunch-hour talk by Rachel Appelbaum, a PhD candidate in Russian and Eastern European History at the University of Chicago. Space is limited. Register in advance.

Saturday, November 5, 9 am–3:30 pm
Teacher Workshop: Art and Activism
Teachers—explore the art and politics of the Soviet Union and take part in a discussion on ways to integrate themes of visual communication and activism into unique, interdisciplinary lessons for the classroom. Soviet historian Leah Goldman will provide a contextual background, and teachers can create their own posters incorporating techniques seen in Vision and Communism.

Presented in collaboration with the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies at the University of Chicago.
CPDUs available. Open to teachers of all disciplines. Space is limited. Please register in advance.

Sunday, November 6, 1–4 pm
Family Day: Artistic Visions
Drop by the Smart Museum and make some art! Create your own abstract collages, take part in a photomontage workshop, and collaborate with others to make one giant work of art. 
All materials provided. Best for children 4–12, accompanied by an adult.

Saturday, December 3, 1–3 pm
Make a Provocative Print
Make silkscreen prints inspired by Soviet propaganda. Watch as a crew from Anchor Graphics demonstrates printmaking processes. Then use templates that combine text and image to create your own poster to take home. All printing materials and poster paper provided. You’re welcome to bring your own t-shirt or tote bag to screen. Open to adults of all skill levels.

Sunday, January 22, 2 pm
Closing-day Tour
Get an in-depth look at Vision and Communism during a closing-day tour led by exhibition cocurator Matthew Jesse Jackson, Associate Professor of Art History and the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago.

Related Publication
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue that presents a series of interconnected essays devoted to Viktor Koretsky’s art and the social worlds that it hoped to transform. Produced collectively by the exhibition curators, the book is published by The New Press and is available in the Smart Museum Shop.

Related exhibition
The Smart Museum of Art also presents the related exhibition Process and Artistry in the Soviet Vanguard, on view August 30 to January 22, 2011. This intimate exhibition offers a rare glimpse at the experimental creative processes that generated iconic Soviet propaganda in the 1920s and 1930s. Featuring works by Gustav Klucis and Valentina Kulagina, it traces classic compositions from preparatory drawings and collage studies to approved designs to posters and other mass-produced print material. Process and Artistry is curated by Kimberly Mims, Smart Museum curatorial intern and PhD student at the University of Chicago, in consultation with Richard A. Born, Smart Museum Senior Curator.

The Soviet Arts Experience
The Smart Museum’s exhibitions Vision and Communism and Process and Artistry in the Soviet Vanguard are part of The Soviet Arts Experience, a 16-month-long, Chicago-wide showcase of works by artists who created under (and in response to) the Politburo of the Soviet Union. Additional exhibitions on view during the showcase include Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad 1941-45 (July 30 to October 23, 2011) at The Art Institute of Chicago; Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary (August 22 to December 31, 2011) at the Special Collections Research Center at The University of Chicago Library; and Views and Re-Views: Soviet Political Posters and Cartoons (September 20 to December 4, 2011) and Tango with Cows: Book Art of the Russian Avant-Garde, 1910–1917 (September 23 to December 11, 2011) at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. For a full schedule of events, visit

Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

Image Credits: 
(1) Viktor Koretsky, A Solid Peace for the World!, 1965, Poster on paper. Ne boltai! Collection.
(2) Victor Koretsky, American Policy (Internal/External), 1970, Poster. Ne boltai! Collection.

Graphic Design by Ishmael Annobil /  Web Development by Ruzanna Hovasapyan