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GOINGS ON SANTA BARBARA : Soviets in Focus : "Comrades and Cameras" is an exhibit of 135 works by more than 50 artists of the U.S.S.R.


Photographs from Latvia and other Soviet republics--from government-sanctioned photos of war heroes to underground pictures of poverty and drunkenness--will be on display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art from Saturday to April 28.

"Comrades and Cameras" is an exhibit of 135 works by more than 50 Soviet artists. The work of organizing the exhibit began four years ago, when editors of the Santa Barbara-based Photographer's Forum Magazine contacted the Latvian Cultural Committee in hopes of putting together an American show of contemporary Soviet photography.

When the Santa Barbara group arrived in Riga, Latvia, in 1987, the cultural committee showed it hundreds of photographs celebrating Soviet life--parades, war heroes and smiling babies. When the Americans stepped out on the streets alone, an underground network of photographers approached them offering a glimpse into another side of Latvian life and photos of a more experimental, contemporary and abstract mode.

"It seemed as if everyone knew we were in town and they'd say, 'If you really want to see what's going on here, come to our apartment,' " said Glen Serbin, publisher of Photographer's Forum.

Amid candid conversations and free-flowing vodka, the Americans were able to view "a whole other wave of work that is sophisticated and contemporary in nature," Serbin said. The Americans asked for and received permission from the cultural committee to include some of the underground works in the exhibit. But, instead of a few weeks, it took over a year to mail all of the photos to the United States. Some photos were especially hard to get out of the country, especially those of government protests. A few of the underground photos were never sent.

Karen Sinsheimer, the museum's curator of photography, said that because the Soviet Union has changed so much since the 1987 trip and that life and art there have been forever altered, this exhibit "reflects the end of an era."

Along with images of contemporary Soviet life, Santa Barbara will also present the sounds of 17th-Century Europe.

The English Concert, a chamber orchestra from England, will be using period instruments such as the harpsichord when it appears at the Arlington Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets range from $15 to $42. 966-4324, 963-4408.

Seventeenth-Century arias, cantatas and sonatas of the Hapsburg courts of Naples and Madrid will be performed by the Chicago-based Newberry Consort at UC Santa Barbara's Campbell Hall, Tuesday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15, $13, $11. 893-3535.

Jean Redpath will sing the folk songs of Scotland on Saturday at UCSB's Campbell Hall. Tickets for the 4 p.m. show are $14, $12, $10. 893-3535.

Bulgarian music and dance will be performed by the Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble at the Lobero Theatre at 8 p.m. Wednesday. $24 and $19. 963-0761.

For a bit of German culture, "Karnival," traditionally the last chance for dancing, feasting and revelry before Lent, will be held Saturday, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., at the Montessori School hall, 3970 La Colina Road. Sponsored by the German Club, Karnival is a little like Halloween, and party guests are encouraged to wear costumes. Tickets, at the door, are $9.50.

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