From Russia with Love

On Saturday we finally were overwhelmed by cabin fever and ventured out of the house and into the city. We were glad we did because for one, it didn’t seem that bad out, I’m not sure what the temp got to, but it was sunny and there was no wind so it was easy not to flinch. Another reason is that we saw some great art at the Museum of Russian Art and had a great meal at El Mason.

TMORA is located on 55th and Stevens in a beautiful Spanish Revival Building which was formally a church. It features a great collection of Russian paintings from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century, tumultuous times in Russia. The paintings show the progression from an “art for art’s sake” aesthetic to an increasing social agenda and by the end they become instruments of Soviet propaganda.

The other exhibitions were equally fascinating. One featured a collection of matryoshkas, those familiar nesting dolls that have become symbolic of Russian Folk art. If you have an interest in color this display is like a clinic in highly saturated color harmony. Plus the imaginative decorative schemes of the dolls hold a wealth of inspiration for graphic designers.

And finally the photography of Sergie M. Prokudin-Gorskii, pioneering Russian photographer who, with the backing of the Tsar, travelled extensively in Central Asia along the Silk Road in the early Twentieth Century. The photos are remarkable in themselves, but the technique used to capture them is incredible. He used a special camera of  his own invention and took three separate exposures, each with a different filter, using glass negatives. He used a special projector to combine the three negatives for viewing. The Library of Congress, which purchased 1600 of the glass negatives from his estate in 1948, is now using digital scanning technology to make these images easily accessible. This is not only a priceless historical record, but a milestone in the art and science of photography. We’re very lucky to have it here in the Twin Cities, don’t miss it.

I won’t go into great detail about El Meson in this post, other than to say go there, it’s fabulous!


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