From Russia with Love: Alexander Rodchenko

 

Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956) was a Russian painter, photographer, designer and sculptor. He was  one of the founders of the Constructivist movement.

Constructivism rejected the idea of art as an aesthetic commodity but rather as something that serves society. The artist is like an “engineer” who arranges elements in the most rational way.

These ideas aligned with revolutionary Russia. Rodchenko put his art at the serve of Socialism, when the country was leaving the tsars’ regime behind and moving towards industrialisation.

He began as a painter, experimenting with colour and lines. Then he learnt from the futurist Vladimir Tatlin and the suprematist Kazimir Malevish, exploring different surfaces, techniques and materials. Later on, he was introduced to photography and consequently graphic design.

While working as a photographer he explored odd angles, harsh contrasts and collages.  He specialised in photojournalism, working on assignments for various Russian magazines.

Rodchenko was fascinated with the options this relatively new medium offered. He said the photographer must look to the subject from different angles, take various portraits on different days, and learn to see.

If you get bored with something you must try a different perceptive.

At the beginning of 1920 Rodchenko worked in a series of book covers for his friend the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. He also collaborated with Sergei Eisenstein designing posters for Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin.

He famously said “Our duty is to experiment”. And he energetically embraced experimentation. Rodchenko endless creativity won him praise in Western circles.

By 1930 Stalin regime imposed its own aesthetics. Under state supervision he turned his lens to a sponsored vision for fear of repression.

Later disillusioned with the system found in painting his main source of expression. Several works from this time have never seen the light.

 

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