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Underground: Russian Photography 1970s-1980s

Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to announce “Underground: Russian Photography 1970s-1980s,” an exhibition of some forty vintage gelatin silver prints by Boris Smelov (1951, Leningrad -1998, St. Petersburg), Boris Mikhailov (b. 1938, Kharkov), Yuri Rybchinsky (b. 1935, Brdiansk), Alexander Lapin (b. 1945, Moscow), Nikolai Bakharev (b. 1946, Novokuznetsk), Gennady Bodrov (1958, Solntsy -1999, Kursk), Vladimir Kuprianov (1954-2011, Moscow), Igor Moukhin (b. 1961, Moscow), Andrey Chezhin (b. 1960, Leningrad), and Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, Leningrad).
During the Khrushchev’s cultural thaw, nonconformist art and literary movements, involving such figures and activities as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Josef Brodsky and samizdat, had a great impact on the evolution of Russian photography in the 1970s, and laid the foundation for a new generation of photographers during glasnost and perestroika in the 1980s. Photographers in the exhibition challenged the government-prescribed optimistic style of socialist realism by photographing forbidden topics, and like other unofficial artists, they risked personal safety in pursuit for individual expression and freedom. In the 1970s, Boris Mikhailov, a pioneer of Russian conceptual photography, used the medium to reflect skepticism about both approved photography and the false realities it presented. By hand-coloring black-and-white prints in the Sots Art series, Mikhailov skillfully exploited the well-known inventory of socialist realist clichés. In 1971 Boris Smelov’s exhibition was cancelled due to censorship and accusation over the mystical and obscure quality of his cityscapes.

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