Gallery 400 and the Department of Art History at UIC invite you to a lecture by art historian Mirela Tanta, entitled Realisms: Art in Romania Before and After 1989.
Dr. Tanta will focus her talk on Romanian Socialist Realism, replete with examples illustrating the impossibility of transposing Socialist reality into art the way Ceausescu had demanded in his many finger-wagging speeches on art. Socialist Realism was born in Romania when the Soviet Union required the implementation of the official aesthetic doctrine called Soviet Socialist Realism during the 1940-50s. After Stalin's death in 1953, Soviet leadership rebranded Soviet Socialist Realism as Humanist Realism. In the meantime, Romanian cultural production had begun to warp away from Moscow and toward a more nationalistic aesthetic regime called Neo-Socialist Realism during the 1970-80s. During the last two decades of Ceausescu’s dictatorship, Romania found itself again the fertile ground for dogmatic Stalinist standards—better described as Stalinism without Stalin. This rappel a l’ordre was not a return to the Soviet Socialist Realism but rather a dizzying palimpsest of unstable messages exposing, from within as it were, the nature of art to make trouble of meaning. Contemporary Romanian artists point out the former dictatorship’s lingering ideological specters in today's society. Recording history then requires a phenomenological quest through basement archives, national galleries, and personal collections. Today's practicing Romanian artists are uncovering communist ideology by painting Ceausescu for a second time (Ciprian Muresan and Adrian Ghenie, 2008), by using documents and photographs to reconstruct images of monuments and cities (Calin Dan and Iosif Kiraly, 1995-1996), and by meticulously replacing old labels from Socialist Realist sculptures with new ones (Ileana Faur, 2012).
Mirela Tanta is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Millikin University. In 2014, she earned her doctorate degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago for her dissertation Propaganda or Resistance: Socialist Realism in Romania 1972-1989. Mirela Tanta specializes in Modern and Contemporary Art and Criticism. Originally from Romania, she was first exposed to the United States as an Arts Link fellow in poetry through the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, Tanta has continued to present her scholarly work internationally on the subjects of memory, visual culture, and artistic agency under dictatorships.