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Honors College students dream of the future through visual media

CSULA Fine Arts Gallery presents a selection from The Wende Museum collection

Samples of artwork created
by groups of CSULA
Honors College students
(click photos for hi-res images)

  • sample poster.
  • sample poster.
  • sample poster

Pictured: Honors College students talking to Professor Wells during the exhibit reception.
L-r: CSULA’s Honors College students Amina Hansford and Gabrielle Alvarado discuss with Professor Scott Wells the ways in which art can be used to communicate social messages and visions for the future.

Reflecting on such important topics as human rights and social justice, a group of Cal State L.A.’s Honors College students recently produced a portfolio of mixed media artworks in response to the exhibition, “The Politics of Happiness: Dreams of the Future from the Collection of The Wende Museum.”

The exhibit, which is on display through March 2 in the CSULA Fine Arts Gallery, features works of art created in the Soviet Union and East Germany from the 1950s through the 1980s.

It is curated by CSULA history faculty members Choi Chatterjee and Scott Wells, with the assistance of Donna Stein and Cristina Cuevas-Wolf of The Wende Museum and Karin Lanzoni of the CSULA Fine Arts Gallery.

As part of the exhibition, Honors College students enrolled this winter in the Honors 320 course (“Global Citizenship: Voices and Context”) presented a postmodern commentary on socialist art, both as critique and as testimonial, to the ongoing relevance of the hopes, ambitions and stylistic repertoires of socialist realism and its vision for a better world through their artwork.

“This collaborative project would allow viewers of the exhibition to compare the dreams of the future portrayed in Cold-War era socialist realist art with the dreams of the future articulated by 21st century CSULA Honors College students,” said Professor Wells.

The selection from The Wende Museum collection references how revolutionary ideas became embedded in innovative art forms.

Some of the artistic forms that were created to communicate socially-relevant ideas include monumental propaganda, colorful and arresting posters and collages, an innovative photo montage, slick documentaries, agitprop films, and socialist realist art and literature.

During the exhibit’s opening reception on Feb. 14, the students presented artistic posters in which they portrayed a current social problem and presented a proposed solution.

Pictured: Honors College students talking to Director Michelle Hawley during the exhibit reception.

L-r: CSULA students Xiaoying (Shirley) Jiang, Brittany Ulloa and Jenny Phuong present their art work to Michelle Hawley (second from left), director of the Honors College, during the exhibition’s opening reception.

“For the ‘Dreams of the Future’ project that we, the Honors College students, worked on, it forced me, in particular, to look at different social aspects that I hadn’t looked at before and look at what I personally wanted to change for the future,” said Jessica Bowman, a biology major and forensic science minor.

For kinesiology major Ivan Serrano, he said, “The reason that we chose to work on this project was to help promote worldwide literacy through reading classic literature. We believe that by going back and re-teaching the classics in literature, we can promote individual thinking and creativity, and confidence in people who can read and understand what they are reading.”

Both Professor Wells and Chatterjee, who teach the Honors courses, were pleased that the students were able to learn how to express a social message, and call for collective action through visual media.

“The aim is to teach them to think contextually about the challenges of achieving solutions to complex and enduring social problems, such as poverty, violence, pollution and ignorance,” explained Wells.

As a Russian historian, Chatterjee wanted to relay the importance of socialist art since it has been ignored since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“It should be brought back to the mainstream and I think it adds a lot of value [to our lives],” said Chatterjee. So, we partnered with The Wende Museum to borrow the artwork that spoke to some of the concerns of today that we share as citizens globally.”

For Jessica Bowman’s video interview:

For Ivan Serrano’s video interview:

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Last Update: 2/22/2013