The students came back from spring break ready for school! Today we went to Rutgers University in New Brunswick and visited the Zimmerli Art Museum. We received a guided tour from a lovely docent, Marcy. Marcy showed us many American works, but the Zimmerli is world-renowned for its collection of Soviet Nonconformist art. She told us that the Dodge Collection contains more works of Soviet Nonconformist art than Russia! Who knew?
We looked at some giant metal sculptures, which we were all very tempted to touch, but could not because the oils on our fingers can actually ruin the artwork. Herbert Ferber’s sculpture appealed to multiple senses: not only could we see the sculpture, but we could hear what seemed like the ocean in the background. This sculpture was a site specific installation that had to be created before the walls were put up around it! There were some sculptures we were encouraged to touch. It’s interesting to guess what each artist’s intention was behind his or her works: should we lay down and look at the sculpture? When we move around, does the work look different? Are there elements of hope among those of despair?
We spent most of our tour time in the Russian Art sections, and we learned about much of the context for the paintings of the “social realism” genre. Stalin forbade certain elements in any work done during his reign: no abstract art, no religious depictions, no alcohol, no anti-government sentiment. These regulations gave birth to the nonconformist art movement; there was an underground community of art flourishing and these artists were painting, so to speak, a very different picture.
After our guided tour, we had some lunch and then explored on our own. Some of us saw iconic and exciting Andy Warhol works. We also saw some disturbing sculptures, which made us wonder what was the inspiration for pieces such as David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (Lion’s Skull and Baby Doll). The students were excited to get out on a brisk spring day, and they were thoroughly engaged with the artwork. At FlexSchool, we believe that learning outside of the classroom can be just as important as learning inside.