|The Wende Museum|
FEATURE BY Willard Manus
CA -- A hammer and sickle transformed into a swastika, Stalin depicted
as a meat grinder--these were just a few of the twenty-four political
posters by Russian artists which were recently on display at the Wende
Museum. Part of an exhibition entitled Deconstructing Perestroika--Soviet
Ideology and Its Discontents, the striking satirical images were created
as visual responses to Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika--openness
and restructuring--during the late 1980s and early 1990s, prior to the
collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Although this particular exhibition has been mothballed (after a five-month run) there is lots more to see at the Wende--German for "turning point." Tucked into two floors of a Culver City office building, the museum is a 10-year-old organization dedicated to "acquiring, preserving and enabling access to cultural and political objects, personal histories and documentary materials from Cold War-era Eastern Europe."
of Justinian Jampol, who began collecting Cold War artifacts when he was
a student at Oxford University and writing a thesis dealing with that
unique historical period, the Wende is a non-profit, independent museum
which makes available its collection of more than 100,000 items to the
general public, plus scholars, students, artists, educators and journalists
from around the world.
Bochmann, former commander of the East German border guards, recently
donated his files to the museum. Included is the handbook he wrote on
how to spot phony passport pictures by matching them against generic facial
features. No doubt Herr Bochmann put many a would-be defector in jail.
the quirky, offbeat displays that give the Wende its special charm--the
Schalmei, a six-horned military bugle, made for a Communist politician;
the Lenin Bust carved by an east German sculptor in 1965 and gleefully
vandalized with pink and green paint in 1989. Although most of the museum's
paintings are on the kitschy side, there are splendid and worthy examples
of socialist realism, such as A.P. Solodovnikov's A Divorce Proceeding
and Bela Kontuly's Building the Subway. Not every communist artist was
Wende Museum is located at 5741 Buckingham Parkway, Suite E, Culver City, CA. 90230. Call 310-216-1600 or visit wendemuseum.org. The museum is open to the public--and free--on Fridays, from 10am-5pm. Mon.-Thurs. by appointment only.