TASS Agency Posters from the Soviet Union 1941-1946
May 1 through May 7, 2013
International Poster Gallery is proud to present War and Peace: TASS Agency Posters from the Soviet Union 1941 - 1946, a one-week only show and sale of extremely rare News Agency "window" posters from the Soviet Union. Posted daily in shop windows of Moscow after the German invasion in 1941, TASS posters were intended to rally support for the war, and later the post-war, effort. The gallery is offering its complete collection of 44 large format, intricately hand-stenciled TASS posters, many never before exhibited in the U.S. View all panels.
In the two days following Hitler's massive 1941 invasion of Russia, three leading artists met with government officials to establish a studio that would produce posters through the government sponsored TASS News Agency. Inspired by the highly successful Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) windows from the Bolshevik Revolution, the first TASS window was produced on June 27, 1941 to reassure and galvanize the public and the country's allies.
In all, 1,485 TASS windows were created over the next 5 and a half years, spanning the war's early moments of utter desperation to the ultimate victory over the Axis nations. Artists utilized a broad arsenal of visual strategies to both incite and inspire: from vicious satire, to potent slogans, to undiluted horror and hatred, to patriotic historical parallels. The collection on display at International Poster Gallery features rare TASS panels dating from March 1943 to late 1946 as the scales slowly tipped in the Soviets' favor, and beyond the armistice.
A pivotal Soviet victory is portrayed in window #891, Novgorad-Volynskii is ours!. In January 1944, the Soviets concentrated their largest artillery barrage to date to reclaim Nazi-occupied Novograd. In this panel, Nazi soldiers are seen fleeing the recaptured city, a fine example of what would become a recurring theme of the collection. The poster's cocky tone is both visually and lyrically evident in its text: "Novgorad-Volynskii is ours! Having taken copious blows, Their legs no longer obeying them, The Fritzes go mad en masse and whirl away faster than the wind." Indeed, the Soviets would conclude the campaign one week later with the liberation of Leningrad after a 900-day occupation.
Biting satire was the specialty of the Kukryniksy, a triumvirate of sophisticated and witty visual artists. Panel #993 from June 1944, Three Years of War, is one of their most powerful designs. In this poster, a large pincer squeezes Hitler's head as he struggles against it to no avail, bending before the implacable Soviet force. His gold "thunderbolt" cuff band breaks, signifying the fate of the German blitzkrieg. The pincer is cleverly comprised of a large red Soviet number 3 - referencing the pivotal Third Year of the TASS campaign.
As victories piled up, TASS designs abandoned much of their venom for messages of unity, thankfulness, and recovery. One of the most colorful panels in the series is #1149, Salute, from early 1945 when the Third Reich was weakening. Fireworks explode over Red Square as a crowd pays tribute to the sacrifices of their countrymen. Beginning after Spring 1942, a labor-intensive printing method was introduced that employed dozens of colors (and stencils) in each design to better hold the viewer's attention and project more memorable imagery. As the windows were also distributed to the Allies, it was believed that the higher quality would make a stronger impression overseas.
Much of the final 18 months of TASS window production would be celebratory and instructional in nature, promoting Stalin's regime and victories in Europe and Japan. The Gallery's collection includes tributes to the Navy, tank commanders, the air force, bricklayers, collective farmers and even suppliers of consumer goods. The TASS windows, no longer urgent, were discontinued in late 1946 as the task of reconstruction became successfully institutionalized.
"Until two years ago, TASS panels were virtually unknown in the U.S., more or less forgotten since Margaret Bourke White photographed them in 1941," comments Gallery owner Jim Lapides. "So we are particularly pleased to be able to present such a powerful and stunning collection filled with such rarities at the gallery." Due to their rarity and historical value, the group of 44 panels will be sold as a collection.
A recent review of the exhibition by wbur.org (Boston's NPR station): 'All roads lead to Berlin!': Soviet Artists Fight The Nazis In WWII.