We only have until October 23 to see Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad, 1941–1945, one of the most unique exhibitions to be held at the Art Institute of Chicago. On entering the exhibition one is greeted with three panes of full-sized windows looking into the TASS studios. Poster 504 covers the center window with a thunderous image of the Allies striking down the Nazis.
Derived from a 1997 surprise when the Prints and Drawings Department discovered the works deep in a storage area, the show enlightens visitors with a new perspective of life during World War II. Walking through the labyrinth of the show wall labels, as large as some of the posters, guide visitors along the four-year time period of a unified front of the Soviet Union, United States, and Great Britain against Nazi Germany.
As well as teaching a rich lesson in history the show has an amazing display of how the stenciled posters were constructed. Next to two complete posters, hung side-by-side, are sets of stencils representing the originals used to create the posters and partially completed samples constructed from the stencils. Below this display, across two saw-horses sits the completed image, ready to be mounted on the full poster with text.
The visitors of the show all came to a halt in the middle to view a slideshow of wartime photographs. When the emotional production comes to an end it releases it’s grasp of everyone’s attention and allows the exhibition to continue through to the end of the war.
The reading room at the end of the show offers visitors an opportunity to review the stunning catalogue, which in 6 essays and 150 examinations of individual posters relates the stories behind the creation, distribution, and importance of the posters during the period of 1941–1945. In this room visitors can also contribute to the chalkboard on the wall. The intention of the chalkboard is not clear, but many visitors use it to express their thoughts of the show and the period of time.