SNP’s word of the day: Lubok

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Lubok

Meaning: Russian popular folk art print, common from the last half of the 17th century through the beginning of the 20th.

Usage: “It was the naive coincidence of picture and narrative that gave pleasure to the spectator-reader of the lubok.” — from some textbook on Russian post-modernism

You should know it because: Lubki open the AGO‘s new Constructing Utopia show, featuring books and posters from Revolutionary Russia that make today’s Occupy Wall Street signage look like child’s play. The prints are cheerful in colour and dismal in content, featuring scenes of farmers at thankless work or brutal war, with text that strikes an existential chord (“I just keep running around,” says one). They seem prototypes of both propaganda and comic strips. Early examples are simpler and often religious; they eventually became more intricate and secular, then communist.

Modern Russian artists, like Sergei Gorshkov, have re-interpreted the lubok in vaguely surrealist ways. I think the folky comic drawings of Winnipeg artist Adrian Williams, which I saw at Neubacher Shor Contemporary this summer, have a lubokian quality too. But enough with the made-up art history—the real point of this is that you’ve now learned a fancy word for cartoon.

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