Living Through Art: Darker Shades of Red Exhibit

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The newest exhibition, Darker Shades of Red, gives space for the public to encounter the Cold War era through art. (Courtesy of Gabby Vanacore)

By Gabby Vanacore

As the Red Scare spread throughout the United States, the color red was rapidly spreading on the other side of the world throughout Russia. As you step inside the newest exhibit in Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art, you will enter into the Cold War era through witnessing vibrantly red posters and other colorful propaganda relating to the threat of nuclear war and brutal communist times.

Filled with powerful Russian iconography and vivid illustrations of Soviet times, “Darker Shades of Red: Soviet Propaganda Art from the Cold War” showcases Gary Hollingsworth’s collection of 55 original, used posters from the Cold War era.

Hollingsworth, an art collector and dealer from Florida, took twelve trips to Russia in order to collect these posters and become an expert on the economic, social, and political ideology of this time period. These posters, which are a part of a larger collection of 200 pieces, accurately portray what life was like in the Soviet Union From the 1940s to 1991 through the graphic art, vibrant colors and explanations, which are translated to English. The subjects of the images range from preparing for nuclear attack to idealizing Stalin as the leader of the Russians.

“The museum institutionally has really worked on being more approachable for students,” says John Schneider, Saint Mary’s museum administrator. He explains that many people are often “intimidated” by museums, but with the illustrations and various graphic art, all different ages can understand the collection’s intended message. “I think propaganda as an art form is really prevalent in our society for whatever reason, and maybe one of those reasons is how accessible it is to everyone. You don’t have to be able to read Russian to understand what people are going for here,” says Schneider.

Throughout the entire museum, the posters are arranged by theme, not by year. Having not been out for a number of years since its last residence in Texas, “Darker Shades of Red” has new frames intended to showcase the colorful posters that are old but in great shape.

The exhibit, which opened February 7, will be open to the public through May 20, 2018. Throughout this time, there will be three events held by professors at the college, and every Thursday at 11am tours from are available from John Schneider. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm. For more information, go to www.stmarys-ca.edu/museum.

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