Blacklisted artists exhibited

By Contributing Writer

By Corey Stolzenbach, Contributing Writer

What if you were an artist forced to work under a dictatorial government?

The art exhibit, “Unfree Freedom: An Exploration of Identity in Central Europe,” opened on Oct. 29 and is curated by Janeil Englestad of threewalls, a cultural organization in Chicago that focuses on cultivating art.

The showcase includes the work of blacklisted artists created during oppressive European regimes and what their work was like after the revolutions.

“I wanted people to have the opportunity to see how artists who were not officially recognized by the socialist regimes, as well as [how] younger artists, who came of age after communism ended, were responding to the world around them,” Englestad said.

Jessica Cochran, curator of exhibitions at Columbia, said students could gain perspective from the gallery.

“Because the show features artists who have been working before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in Central Europe, I hope it will give students a little bit of a perspective of what it might be like to be an artist working underneath an oppressive regime,” Cochran said.

On display are the works of artists Rudolf Sikora and Peter Szabo. Sikora is a Slovak who focused on themes outside of government. He co-founded the group Public Against Violence, which played a role in the 1989 fall of the communist government in then-Czechoslovakia.

The gallery displays Szabo’s work from the Delta-Haggadah series, which contains images of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and imprisonments, as well as 11 charcoal still sketches from that time.

According to Jeremy Jennings, arts entertainment and media management and audio arts and acoustics double major who works at the exhibit, 135 people visited the gallery during the first 10 days. Jennings was fond of some of the displayed work.

“You have the opportunity to really stop and feel [the artwork] as you’re working,” Jennings said. “Just getting to spend time around here is a neat experience.”

Englestad will conduct a curator talk on Dec. 9 at 11 a.m. She will discuss artists’ books, as well as works on paper in the former Soviet countries.

“Created for political protest, social critique and to promote independent thought, this work is increasingly relevant today as artists participate in and respond to Occupy [Wall Street] and other social movements,” Englestad said.

The free exhibit is on the second floor of the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., until Dec. 10, from Tuesdays through Saturdays at 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.