It's been a little more than 100 years since Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik Red Guards stormed Petrograd, an uprising that led to the execution of the abdicated Tsar Nicholas and the Romanov family and paved the way for five years of Russian Civil War and the creation of the Soviet Union.
The social, political and economic scars of the October Revolution are still evident today, perhaps most notably in stalled democratic reforms within modern-day Russia.
Igor Karash, one of this decade's top illustrators, is lobbing his satirical arrows at overly romanticized views of the Bolshevik coup in "In Red and Black," a new exhibit coming to Russian Cultural Center "Our Texas."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Karash grew up in Azerbaijan, attended school in the Ukraine, and emigrated to the United States in 1993. He and his family spent time in Houston before moving to Missouri. Although he lives in the States now, the artist considers himself a product of Russia's culture and finds it impossible to distance himself from current events.
In an interview he did with Capsules Book this summer, Karash said that his "country has squandered so many historical opportunities to become a democratic state" and added that he feels "the current political climate in the U.S. is quite worrisome," but that there is hope through the succession of power. "On this account, Russia's future appears particularly bleak," he told the interviewer.
Kate Traynin, RCC's events coordinator, tells us that Karash was inspired by an exhibit that closed earlier this year at the Art Institute in Chicago, "Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test," a monumental 550-piece show that included posters, theatrical set model, paintings, cartoons and film.
In creating the 31 large scale illustrations for the RCC exhibit, Karash drew inspiration from the Russian Avant Garde masters to depict the real face of Bolshevism as monsters of the revolution.
This isn't the first time that Karash has exhibited in Houston. Theater buffs will remember the soft, fairytale concepts he drew for Main Street Theater's 2002-2003 production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In 2014 the Russian Cultural Center exhibited illustrations he did for the London Folio Society's printing of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.
Karash also has used an eerie scratch technique to write and illustrate a picture book, Sir Drakon, inspired by Soviet playwright Eugene Schwartz's The Dragon, a play written as an anti-fascist pamphlet. Copies of Sir Drakon are available for purchase at the center, as well as limited edition prints.
The artist will be on hand during the exhibit's opening reception, 7:30-9:30 p.m. October 19.
"In Red and Black" runs October 19-December 31 at Russian Cultural Center "Our Texas," 2337 Bissonnet, 713-395-3301, facebook.com/events/270149370305517.