Steve Yates, Curator
The experimentation of Alexander Rodchenko (1891—1956) stands as one of the most innovative efforts in establishing the visual language of modern art through photographic expression in the early 20th century. From Russia’s political October Revolution in 1917, Rodchenko sought to create a corresponding artistic landmark, believing that new ideologies demand new artistic forms for a modern culture. By late 1923, he began to abandon easel painting and sculpture, substituting the camera as the primary imager-making tool for the modern artist. For Rodchenko it enabled “contradiction of perspective, Contrasts in light. Contrasts of form…moments altogether new” for the visual arts. In establishing the revolutionary and influential style of Constructivism, his avant-garde experiments and theories became central to Modernist discourse, along with other proto-Modernist, such as László Maholy-Nagy, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Pierre Dubreuil, Man Ray, Paul Strand, Charles Sheeler, El Lissitzky, Bernard Shea Horne, E. O. Hoppé, and Edward Weston.
Rodchenko: Modern Photography, Photomontage, and Film makes it clear that Rodchenko’s contribution to photomontage, cinema, and photography continue to be artistically relevant through their unique ability to maximize the graphic impact of all visual experience. Everyday scenes are viewed with dynamic perspectives and viewpoints that utilize abstraction, not to suppress the meanings of reality, but rather to instill life with new possibilities. Original photographic publications and cinematic montages created with avant-garde artists and literary figures, such as filmmaker Dziga Vertov, share this unprecedented exploration of graphic design united with form and line.
The exhibition includes portraits by Rodchencko of his contemporaries during the unparalleled years of Russian avant-garde. Included are portraits of the artist, his wife Varvara Stepanova, their daughter, leading poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, critic Osip Brik, Cubist-Futurist painter Liubov Popova, and many others who significantly shape the history of Modernism.
Because of his desire to integrate art into modern culture, Rodchenko employed nontraditional approaches to tradition mediums and thus realized a modern vision in both graphic and photographic art. His efforts to embody art and life through inventive forms were an impetus against the growing oppression of communist ideology that would eventually extinguish the avant-garde. His modern contributions continue to provide an engaging paradigm for the discussion of artistic innovation and idealism in the history of photography and art. Despite Constructivism’s claim of using the intellect with vision, rather than the soul, as the new motivation of art, Rodchenko’s passion and dedication cannot help but be felt in the visually stunning and formally dynamic artworks selected for this exhibition.
NUMBER OF WORKS:
November 2001 - March 2003
all works by Rodchenko
Lily Brik, 1924. Modern gelatin silver photograph (top)
Still Life with Leica. Gelatin silver photograph.
House of Mosselprom, 1925. Gelatin silver photograph.