“Building the Revolution,” now on view at the Royal Academy, tries to link together the art of the early Soviet Union with its architecture, but the connection is only fully maintained at the level of the abstract and politicized discussions of the Russian intelligentsia of the 1920s. The actual items on display provide two excellent, but only peripherally related, exhibitions.

The first is an exhibition of avant-garde Russian art which arbitrarily begins in 1915, two years before Lenin seized power. It would have made sense for this section to reach back further to the flourishing of self-consciously non-figurative art well before World War I. The second exhibition consists of Richard Pare’s magnificent color photographs of the distinctive modernist buildings of Russia and the Ukraine, designed and built in the years before Stalin finally and decisively imposed socialist...


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