The neighboring nations of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are located in Central Asia, the vast land mass that stretches from the Caspian Sea to Mongolia. Both nations share an Islamic heritage and a physical geography defined by the flat, expansive grasslands known as the steppe. In keeping with Islamic traditions, the arts and architecture of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have long prized the expressive use of color.
For much of the Twentieth Century, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan were part of the Soviet Union, forming two of its fifteen constituent republics. During this period, professional artists were required to work in the official Soviet style of Socialist Realism. Socialist Realism, which favored heroic and patriotic topics painted in a conservative style, was intended to produce a unified national art and severely restricted the creative freedom of artists. As a consequence, many existing artistic traditions, including the decorative use of color characteristic of central Asia, were regarded by authorities as outdated and incompatible with official Soviet art.
The Colors of the Steppe examines the revival of expressive color in the underground or non-conformist art of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The artists included in this exhibition employ bright, vibrant colors as a means of reconnecting with their native artistic traditions. The result is a modern, regional art, in which tradition and innovation are combined as an alternative to official styles.

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