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“The Soviet Union sort of stuck in my mind as a place of certain mystery and drama,” says Richard Pare, the architecture photographer who has spent the last 20 years snapping the radical Russian Modernist structures built in the decade following the 1917 Russian Revolution. Starting Thursday, Pare’s exhibition, The Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922–32, will be on display at the Graham Foundation (4 W. Burton Pl.) through February 16, 2013.
Pare is among few documentarians who have visited the majority of Modernist sites. And despite the fact that the Modern movement was a prolific and creative moment in architecture history, hardly anyone had access before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
And I use the term “access” loosely. When Pare first began his prolific project—he’s taken around 15,000 photos—it was still easy to sneak into the buildings. “Nobody really knew who was in charge, so as long as I looked like I knew what I was doing—and as though I had permission—no one bothered me,” he explains. “I’d just march in and wait until somebody threw me out.” Today, many of the buildings have been destroyed or are under close watch.
The Lost Vanguard has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and many of the photos from the exhibition appeared at the Tate Modern in London. Pare, a student at the School of the Art Institute in the early ‘70s, says, “Having the show in Chicago is like coming home.”
Photograph: © Richard Pare