Famous Russians – Alexander Rodchenko


rodchenko-1Alexander Rodchenko was a painter, graphic artist, photographer, designer, teacher, a member of INHUK (Institute of artistic culture) group of constructivists, a member of the “October group “, a member of the Artists Union’s Graphics Section.

He studied at Kazan Art School in 1911-1914, and moved to Moscow in 1916. Rodchenko began exhibiting as a painter in 1916 and he was one of the organizers of the artistic painters’ trade union in 1917. He worked as a head of the museum bureau and as a member of the artistic board in the department Izo Narkompros (Department of fine arts of the People’s Commissariat for education) during the period of 1918 to 1922.

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“Everything is experiments” and “Line”

At the same time he was developing a series of graphic, pictorial and spatial abstract geometrical minimalist works. Starting from 1916 he used to take part in major exhibitions of the Russian avant-garde, in architectural contests and in the work of Zhivskulptarh Commission (Commission for scenic, sculptural and architectural synthesis). His creative credo was worded in his manifest texts “Everything is experiments” and “Line”. His attitude to the art presumed the invention of new forms and opportunities and he used to consider his creativity as a huge experiment, where each work is a minimal in form picturesque element in the limited media of expression. In 1917-1918 he worked with the plane and painted his “Black on Black” in 1919: the works based on style only. He introduced lines and pixels as independent forms and he displayed a triptych of three monochromatic colors (yellow, red, blue) in 1921 at the “5 х 5 = 25” Exhibition (Moscow) showed white in 1919-1920.

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“Planes reflecting light”

Along with painting and graphics he also worked with spatial structures. The first cycle was “Folding and Disassembling” (1918) represented by flat cardboard elements; the second one was “Planes reflecting light” (1920-1921): freely hanging mobiles cut out of plywood concentric shape pieces (circle, square, ellipse, triangle and hexagon); the third group was “Based on the same form principle” (1920-21): spatial structures made of the standard wooden beams, connected by the combinatorial principle. He summed up his artistic researches in 1921 and announced his transition to the “industrial art”.

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Ingenious Inventions of the

Transforming Structures

He became a professor at the Artistic Painting Faculty in 1920, then a Professor of the metal-processing Faculty of VHUTEMAS-VHUTEIN (Higher Art and Technical studios Higher Art and Technical Institute) in 1922-1930. He taught multifunctional disciplines to the students for everyday life and public buildings, emphasizing expressiveness of forms not at the expense of decorations, but rather through identification of objects structure, ingenious inventions of the transforming structures. He was a member of INHUK (Artistic Culture Institute) in 1920-1924.

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He was a Multifaceted Designer

Starting from 1923 he worked as a multifaceted designer. He used to go in for polygraphy, photo-montage and advertising graphics (with V. Mayakovsky), he was a member of the LEF group (Left Front) and later he was a member of the “New LEF” magazine Editorial Board.

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“Working Club” Interior

In 1925, he was sent on a business trip to Paris for dressing the Soviet section of the International Exhibition of Decorative Art and the artistic industry, where he actually implemented his project of the “Working Club” interior.

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“Ways of the Modern Photograph”

He started to work with photo in 1924. He is known for the documentary psychological portraits of his close relatives (“Portrait of Mother”, 1924), as well as friends and acquaintances from LEF (portraits of Mayakovsky, L. and O. Briks, Aseev, Tretiakov), artists and architects (Vesnin, Ghan, Popov). In 1926 he published his first angle shot pictures of the buildings (in the Buildings series “The House at Myasnitskaya Street”, 1925, and “The House of Mosselprom”, 1926) in the magazine “Soviet Cinema.” He promoted a new, dynamic, documentarily accurate look at the world, defended the need for mastering of the upper and lower view points in the photographs in his articles “Ways of the modern photograph”, “Advantages of a snapshot versus a summarized portrait” and “Major illiteracy or a petty dirt trick”. He participated in the exhibition “The Soviet photography during a period of 10 years” (1928, Moscow).

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“Moscow in October”

In the late 20’s and the early 30’s he worked as a photographer in a newspaper “Vechernyaya Moskva” and in the magazines “30 days”, “Pioneer”, “Ogonyok” and “Radioslushatel”. At the same time he worked in the cinema (the artist of the films “Moscow in October”, 1927, “Newspaperwoman”, 1927-28, “Doll with millions” and “Albidum”, 1928) and in the theater (stage performances “Inga” and “Bedbug”, 1929) developing original furniture, costumes and decorations.

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Leader of the Photo Group “October”

He was one of the organizers and leaders of the photo group “October”. He displayed a number of discussion provoking snapshots at the exhibition of the “October” group arranged in the Press House in Moscow in 1931 which were strongly opposed and provoked severe criticism along with accusations in formalism and unwillingness to adjust in line with the “proletarian approach to picture taking.”

Magazine Illustrator of

“The USSR in Construction”

He withdrew from the “October” group in 1932 and became a cameraman for Moscow publishing house Izogiz. In 1933 he worked as a magazine illustrator of “The USSR in Construction”, as well as the photo albums illustrator such as “10 years of Uzbekistan”, “The First Horse Mounted Army”, “The Red Army”, “The Soviet Aviation” and others (jointly with his wife V. Stepanova). He continued painting in the 30’s and the 40’s. He was a member of the jury and a decorating artist of many photo exhibitions, as well as a member of the Presidium of the photo section of the photo and cinema workers Trade Union. He also was a member of the MOSKh (Moscow Organization of the Union of Soviet Artists) starting in 1932. He participated in the “Masters of the Soviet Photographic Art” Exhibition in 1936. Since 1928 he used to regularly send his works to the photographic salons in the United States, France, Spain, Great Britain, Czechoslovakia and other countries.

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