Art Beat: Women at Work

The Museum of Russian Art examines the unique role of women in the Soviet Union. Also this week: Mary Ellen Mark's photographs from movie sets and the FOCO festival at Bryant-Lake Bowl.

"A Working Woman" by Yuri Bosko. Credit: Submitted image
"A Working Woman" by Yuri Bosko. Credit: Submitted image

WINDOM — The Russian equivalent of Rosie the Riveter? Not quite.

The subject of “A Working Woman” wears a distinctly no-nonsense look on her face in the 1960s portrait painted by Yuri Bosko. Leaning against a factory ladder and squinting into the light, she crosses her beefy arms as if to ask, “What are you looking at?”

It’s just one of many images of women at work in “Women in Soviet Art” at the Museum of Russian Art, featuring paintings made between 1948 and 1991. Granted equal rights with men in the 1918 Soviet Constitution, women helped to rebuild the country after the devastation of World War II and joined the workforce in droves throughout the 20th century, helping transform the Soviet Union into a world superpower (all while keeping things running at home, of course).

The Museum of Russian Art does a typically excellent job of placing these images in context, explaining how post-war hand wringing over the masculinization of women influenced both art and state policies. Later in the 20th century, both would again emphasize women’s traditional role in the household.

The exhibition develops a multifaceted portrait of Soviet women, from sturdy loggers and machinists to a trio of rosy-cheeked students skiing in a Moscow park to a pilot in her jumpsuit. That young pilot is Valentina Tereshkova, who in 1963 was the first woman in space.

“Women in Soviet Art” runs through Nov. 11 at The Museum of Russian Art, 5500 Stevens Ave. S. 821-9045. tmora.org

On set

EAST HARRIET — The documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark has shot street life in New York City, street kids in Seattle and, at other points in her long career, prostitutes, prisoners and prom-goers.

Since the late ’60s, Mark has also been a unit photographer, working behind the scenes on movie sets to capture portraits of actors and directors. That slice of her oeuvre is on display at Weinstein Gallery this summer.

It doesn’t take a cinephile to appreciate a glimpse into the filming of Francois Truffaut’s “La Sirène du Mississippi” (“Mississippi Mermaid”), showing a young Catherine Deneuve on location in wintry Grenoble, France in 1969. Dressed in a slim black overcoat with a feather collar, Deneuve stands beneath an umbrella to protect her blond coiffure from the falling snow. In another photograph, a hairdresser attends to that just-so hairdo and Deneuve’s eyes are locked on Truffaut, the director, as he gestures toward the camera.

An amusing image of Frederico Fellini, shot on the set of “Amarcord” in 1970, finds the Italian director on top of a ladder, touching-up one of the paintings that decorates the film set. While the painting’s subject appears to be Catholic cardinal in a four-pointed biretta, it’s undoubtedly something of a Fellini portrait, as well, with its bushy eyebrows and sagging jowls.

Several photographs from the filming of “Apocalypse Now” enhance the legend of the 1979 Vietnam War film’s infamous on-location shoot in Manila. Dennis Hopper peers through a shredded American flag in one; in another, an imposing Marlon Brando stares into the camera while a beetle crawls across his bald head.

In this show, no celebrity portrait is as poignant as Mark’s photograph of Clayton Moore from 1992. She finds television’s original Lone Ranger at home in Los Angeles, sunk into a leather couch, wearing the outfit that made him famous — black mask and all. He’s nearly 80 years old, long out of the spotlight, but still inhabiting the character that made him famous.

“Mary Ellen Mark: Seen Behind the Scene/40 Years of Photographing On Set” runs through July 27 at Weinstein Gallery, 908 W. 46th St. 822-1722. weinstein-gallery.com

After Outlet, FOCO

THE WEDGE — Bryant-Lake Bowl and its little black-box theater are sitting out August’s Minnesota Fringe Festival for the first time in years.

That’s left an 11-day hole in the theater’s summer calendar, and to fill it the folks at BLB called in Jaime Carrera, who recently organized two rounds of the Outlet pop-up performance series for the ongoing Artists in Storefronts project taking place in Whittier. With Carrera as curator, Outlet transformed a basement beneath a Blaisdell Avenue bodega into a stage for out-there music, dance and performance art.

There’s a similar agenda for Carrera’s new FOCO festival, but don’t expect Outlet III. With FOCO, Carrera has a real theatrical space to play with again, and he plans to use it.

That includes adding film to the established mix of music, dance and performance art. On Aug. 4, the fourth night of FOCO, experimental short films from six local (or ex-local) filmmakers will make their Minneapolis premiers, including “Broseph,” an entry directed by Carrera and starring first-time actor Ryan Nicholas Solem.

 FOCO runs Aug. 1–4 and 8–11 at Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St. Shows begin at 7 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.) and admission is $10. 825-3737. bryantlakebowl.com