Posts Tagged ‘Russian Constructivism

17
Jun
17

Exhibition: ‘Moholy-Nagy: Future Present’ at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Exhibition dates: 12th February – 18th June 2017

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'F in Field' 1920

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
F in Field
1920
Gouache and collage on paper
8 11/16 × 6 15/16 in.
Private collection, courtesy of Kunsthandel Wolfgang Werner, Bremen/Berlin
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

“To meet the manifold requirements of this age with a definite program of human values, there must come a new mentality and a new type of personality. The common denominator is the fundamental acknowledgment of human needs; the task is to recognise the moral obligation in satisfying these needs, and the aim is to produce for human needs, not for profit.”

.
László Moholy-Nagy in Vision in Motion, published posthumously in 1947

 

 

New vision

One of the most creative human beings of the 20th century, and one of its most persuasive artists … “pioneering painter, photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker as well as graphic, exhibition, and stage designer, who was also an influential teacher at the Bauhaus, a prolific writer, and later the founder of Chicago’s Institute of Design.”

New visual creations, new combinations of technology and art: immersive installations featuring photographic reproductions, films, slides, posters, and examples of architecture, theatre, and industrial design that attempted to achieve a Gesamtwerk (total work) that would unify art and technology with life itself. Moholy’s “belief in the power of images and the various means by which to disseminate them” presages our current technological revolution.

It’s time another of his idioms – the moral obligation to satisfy human values by producing for human needs, not for profit – is acted upon.

The aim is to produce for human needs, not for profit.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The first comprehensive retrospective of the work of László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) in the United States in nearly 50 years, this long overdue presentation reveals a utopian artist who believed that art could work hand-in-hand with technology for the betterment of humanity. Moholy-Nagy: Future Present examines the career of this pioneering painter, photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker as well as graphic, exhibition, and stage designer, who was also an influential teacher at the Bauhaus, a prolific writer, and later the founder of Chicago’s Institute of Design. The exhibition includes more than 250 works in all media from public and private collections across Europe and the United States, some of which have never before been shown publicly in the U.S. Also on display is a large-scale installation, the Room of the Present, a contemporary construction of an exhibition space originally conceived by Moholy-Nagy in 1930. Though never realised during his lifetime, the Room of the Present illustrates Moholy’s belief in the power of images and the various means by which to disseminate them – a highly relevant paradigm in today’s constantly shifting and evolving technological world.

 

 

 

An exhibition walkthrough of Moholy-Nagy: Future Present at LACMA. Mark Lee, Principal of Johnston Marklee and Carol S. Eliel, Curator of Modern Art at LACMA discuss how Johnston Marklee’s design of the exhibition dialogues with the multiple mediums that constitute Moholy-Nagy’s vast body of work.

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Title unknown' 1920/21

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Title unknown
1920/21
Gouache, collage, and graphite on paper
9 5/8 × 6 3/8 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Kate Steinitz
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' 1941

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photogram
1941
Gelatin silver photogram
28 x 36 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Sally Petrilli, 1985
© 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) '19' 1921

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
19
1921
Oil on canvas
44 × 36 1/2 in.
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Sibyl Moholy-Nagy
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Red Cross and White Balls' 1921

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Red Cross and White Balls
1921
Collage, ink, graphite, and watercolor on paper
8 7/16 × 11 7⁄16 in.
Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo © Museum Kunstpalast – Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Construction' 1922

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Construction
1922
Oil and graphite on panel
21 3/8 × 17 15/16 in.
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Lydia Dorner in memory of Dr. Alexander Dorner
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Q' 1922/23

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Q
1922/23
Collage, watercolor, ink, and graphite on paper attached to carbon paper
23 3⁄16 × 18 1⁄4 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

 

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents Moholy-Nagy: Future Present, the first comprehensive retrospective of the pioneering artist and educator László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) to be seen in the United States in nearly 50 years. Organized by LACMA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and the Art Institute of Chicago, this exhibition examines the rich and varied career of the Hungarian-born modernist. One of the most versatile figures of the twentieth century avant-garde, Moholy (as he is often called) believed in the potential of art as a vehicle for social transformation and in the value of new technologies in harnessing that potential. He was a pathbreaking painter, photographer, sculptor, designer, and filmmaker as well as a prolific writer and an influential teacher in both Germany and the United States. Among his innovations were experiments with cameraless photography; the use of industrial materials in painting and sculpture; research with light, transparency, and movement; work at the forefront of abstraction; fluidity in moving between the fine and applied arts; and the conception of creative production as a multimedia endeavour. Radical for the time, these are now all firmly part of contemporary art practice.

The exhibition includes approximately 300 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, collages, photographs, photograms, photomontages, films, and examples of graphic, exhibition, and theatre design. A highlight is the full-scale realisation of the Room of the Present, an immersive installation that is a hybrid of exhibition space and work of art, seen here for the first time in the United States. This work – which includes photographic reproductions, films, images of architectural and theatre design, and examples of industrial design – was conceived by Moholy around 1930 but realised only in 2009. The exhibition is installed chronologically with sections following Moholy’s career from his earliest days in Hungary through his time at the Bauhuas (1923-28), his post-Bauhaus period in Europe, and ending with his final years in Chicago (1937-46).

Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is co-organised by Carol S. Eliel, Curator of Modern Art, LACMA; Karole P. B. Vail, Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Matthew S. Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator, Department of Photography, Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition’s tour began at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, continued at the Art Institute of Chicago, and concludes at LACMA.

“Moholy-Nagy is considered one of the earliest modern artists actively to engage with new materials and technologies. This spirit of experimentation connects to LACMA’s longstanding interest in and support of the relationship between art and technology, starting with its 1967-71 Art and Technology Program and continuing with the museum’s current Art + Technology Lab,” according to Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “This exhibition’s integrated view of Moholy’s work in numerous mediums reveals his relevance to contemporary art in our multi- and new media age.”

Moholy’s goal throughout his life was to integrate art, technology, and education for the betterment of humanity; he believed art should serve a public purpose. These goals defined the artist’s utopian vision, a vision that remained as constant as his fascination with light, throughout the many material changes in his oeuvre,” comments Carol S. Eliel, exhibition curator. “Light was Moholy’s ‘dream medium,’ and his experimentation employed both light itself and a range of industrial materials that take advantage of light.”

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' 1925/28, printed 1929

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photogram
1925/28, printed 1929
Gelatin silver print (enlargement from photogram) from the Giedion Portfolio
15 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Mary Kathryn Lynch Kurtz Charitable Lead Trust, The Manfred Heiting Collection
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Self-Portrait with Hand)' 1925/29, printed 1940/49

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photograph (Self-Portrait with Hand)
1925/29, printed 1940/49
Gelatin silver print
9 5/16 × 7 in.
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' 1925/26

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photogram
1925/26
Gelatin silver photogram
7 3/16 × 9 1/2 in.
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © Museum Folkwang Essen – ARTOTHEK

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' 1926

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photogram
1926
Gelatin silver print
9 3/8 x 7 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ralph M. Parsons Fund
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

 

 

Photogram (1926): In the 1920s Moholy was among the first artists to make photograms by placing objects – including coins, lightbulbs, flowers, even his own hand – directly onto the surface of light-sensitive paper. He described the resulting images, simultaneously identifiable and elusive, as “a bridge leading to a new visual creation for which canvas, paintbrush, and pigment cannot serve.”

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Cover and design for Malerei Photographie Film (Painting Photography Film)' 1925

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Cover and design for Malerei Photographie Film (Painting Photography Film)
1st ed., Bauhausbücher (Bauhaus Books) 8 (Albert Langen Verlag, 1925), bound volume
9 1/16 × 7 1/16 in.
Collection of Richard S. Frary
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Once a Chicken, Always a Chicken' 1925

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Once a Chicken, Always a Chicken
1925
Photomontage (halftone reproductions, paper, watercolor, and grapite) on paper
15 × 19 in.
Alice Adam, Chicago
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

About the artist

László Moholy-Nagy was born in Hungary in 1895. He enrolled as a law student at the University of Budapest in 1915, leaving two years later to serve as an artillery officer in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. He began drawing while on the war front; after his discharge in 1918 Moholy convalesced in Budapest, where he focused on painting. He was soon drawn to the cutting-edge art movements of the period, including Cubism and Futurism. Moholy moved to Vienna in 1919 before settling in Berlin in 1920, where he served as a correspondent for the progressive Hungarian magazine MA (Today).

The letters and glyphs of Dada informed Moholy’s visual art around 1920 while the hard edged geometries and utopian goals of Russian Constructivism influenced his initial forays into abstraction shortly thereafter, particularly works that explored the interaction among coloured planes, diagonals, circles, and other geometric forms. By the early 1920s Moholy had gained a reputation as an innovative artist and perceptive theorist through exhibitions at Berlin’s radical Galerie Der Sturm as well as his writings. His lifelong engagement with industrial materials and processes – including the use of metal plating, sandpaper, and various metals and plastics then newly-developed for commercial use – began at this time.

In 1923 Moholy began teaching at the Bauhaus, an avant-garde school that sought to integrate the fine and applied arts, where his colleagues included Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and other path breaking modernists. Architect Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, invited Moholy to expand its progressive curriculum, particularly by incorporating contemporary technology into more traditional methods and materials. He also had a part in Bauhaus graphic design achievements, collaborating with Herbert Bayer on stationery, announcements, and advertising materials.

Photography was of special significance for Moholy, who believed that “a knowledge of photography is just as important as that of the alphabet. The illiterates of the future will be ignorant of the use of the camera and pen alike.” In the 1920s he was among the earliest artists to make photograms by placing objects directly onto the surface of light-sensitive paper. He also made photographs using a traditional camera, often employing exaggerated angles and plunging perspectives to capture contemporary technological marvels as well as the post-Victorian freedom of the human body in the modern world. His photographs are documentary as well as observations of texture, captured in fine gradations of light and shadow. Moholy likewise made photomontages, combining assorted elements, typically newspaper and magazine clippings, resulting in what he called a “compressed interpenetration of visual and verbal wit; weird combinations of the most realistic, imitative means which pass into imaginary spheres.” Moholy-Nagy includes the largest grouping of the artist’s photomontages ever assembled.

After leaving the Bauhaus in 1928, Moholy turned to commercial, theatre, and exhibition design as his primary means of income. This work, which reached a broad audience, was frequently collaborative and interdisciplinary by its very nature and followed from the artist’s dictum “New creative experiments are an enduring necessity.”

Even as his commercial practice was expanding, Moholy’s artistic innovations and prominence in the avant-garde persisted unabated. He continued to bring new industrial materials into his painting practice, while his research into light, transparency, and movement led to his 35 mm films documenting life in the modern city, his early involvement with colour photography for advertising, and his remarkable kinetic Light Prop for an Electric Stage of 1930. An extension of his exhibition design work, Moholy’s Room of the Present was conceived to showcase art that embodied his “new vision” – endlessly reproducible photographs, films, posters, and examples of industrial design.

Forced by the rise of Nazism to leave Germany, in 1934 Moholy moved with his family to Amsterdam, where he continued to work on commercial design and to collaborate on art and architecture projects. Within a year of arriving the family was forced to move again, this time to London. Moholy’s employment there centred around graphic design, including prominent advertising campaigns for the London Underground, Imperial Airways, and Isokon furniture. He also received commissions for a number of short, documentary influenced films while in England. In 1937, the artist accepted the invitation (arranged through his former Bauhaus colleague Walter Gropius) of the Association of Arts and Industries to found a design school in Chicago, which he called the New Bauhaus – American School of Design. Financial difficulties led to its closure the following year, but Moholy reopened it in 1939 as the School of Design (subsequently the Institute of Design, today part of the Illinois Institute of Technology). Moholy transmitted his populist ethos to the students, asking that they “see themselves as designers and craftsmen who will make a living by furnishing the community with new ideas and useful products.”

Despite working full-time as an educator and administrator, Moholy continued his artistic practice in Chicago. His interest in light and shadow found a new outlet in Plexiglas hybrids of painting and sculpture, which he often called Space Modulators and intended as “vehicles for choreographed luminosity.” His paintings increasingly involved biomorphic forms and, while still abstract, were given explicitly autobiographical or narrative titles – the Nuclear paintings allude to the horror of the atomic bomb, while the Leuk paintings refer to the cancer that would take his life in 1946. Moholy’s goal throughout his life was to integrate art, technology, and education for the betterment of humanity. “To meet the manifold requirements of this age with a definite program of human values, there must come a new mentality,” he wrote in Vision in Motion, published posthumously in 1947. “The common denominator is the fundamental acknowledgment of human needs; the task is to recognise the moral obligation in satisfying these needs, and the aim is to produce for human needs, not for profit.”

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'AL 3' 1926

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
AL 3
1926
Oil, industrial paint, and graphite on aluminium
15 3/4 × 15 3/4 in.
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Berlin Radio Tower)' 1928/29

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photograph (Berlin Radio Tower)
1928/29
Gelatin silver print
14 3/16 × 10 in.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Julien Levy Collection, Special Photography Acquisition Fund
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Digital image © The Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

Photograph (Berlin Radio Tower) (1928/29): Moholy used a traditional camera to take photos that often employ exaggerated angles and plunging perspectives to capture contemporary technological marvels such as the Berlin Radio Tower, which was completed in 1926. This photograph epitomises Moholy’s concept of art working hand-in-hand with technology to create new ways of seeing the world – his “new vision.”

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Light Prop)' 1930

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photograph (Light Prop for an Electric Stage)
1930
Gelatin silver print
9 7/16 × 7 1/8 in.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

A short documentation from the replica of Moholy-Nagy’s Light Space Modulator in Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, Holland

 

 

Làslò Moholy Nagy film
1930

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Light Prop)' c. 1930

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photograph (Light Prop for an Electric Stage)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
14 3/4 × 10 3/4 in.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of the artist
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art / licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

 

Installation view of Room 2, designed by László Moholy-Nagy, of the German section of the annual salon of the Society of Decorative Artists, Paris, May 14-July 13, 1930

 

Installation view of Room 2, designed by László Moholy-Nagy, of the German section of the annual salon of the Society of Decorative Artists, Paris, May 14-July 13, 1930
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo: Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Room of the Present' 1930, constructed 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Room of the Present
Constructed 2009 from plans and other documentation, dated 1930
Mixed media, inner dimensions: 137 3/4 x 218 7/8 x 318 3/4 in.
Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2953
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photography by Peter Cox, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

 

 

The Room of the Present is an immersive installation featuring photographic reproductions, films, slides, posters, and examples of architecture, theatre, and industrial design, including an exhibition copy of Moholy’s kinetic Light Prop for an Electric Stage (1930). The Room exemplifies Moholy’s desire to achieve a Gesamtwerk (total work) that would unify art and technology with life itself. A hybrid between exhibition space and work of art, it was originally conceived around 1930 but realised only in 2009, based on the few existing plans, drawings, and related correspondence Moholy left behind.

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Construction AL6 (Konstruktion AL6)' 1933-34

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Construction AL6 (Konstruktion AL6)
1933-34
Oil and incised lines on aluminum
60 × 50 cm
IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Generalitat
© 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'CH BEATA I' 1939

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
CH BEATA I
1939
Oil and graphite on canvas
46 7/8 × 47 1/8 in.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, photography by Kristopher McKay

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Light Modulator in Motion)' 1943

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photograph (Light Modulator in Motion)
1943
Gelatin silver print
6 9/16 x 4 7/16 in.
George Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York, purchase with funds provided by Eastman Kodak Company
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Light Modulator in Repose)' 1943

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photograph (Light Modulator in Repose)
1943
Gelatin silver print
6 7/16 x 4 1/2 in.
George Eastman Museum, Purchased with funds provided by Eastman Kodak Company
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Vertical Black, Red, Blue' 1945

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Vertical Black, Red, Blue
1945
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Alice and Nahum Lainer, the Ducommun and Gross Acquisition Fund, the Fannie and Alan Leslie Bequest, and the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, as installed in Moholy-Nagy: Future Present at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo
© 2017 Museum Associates/LACMA

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Space Modulator CH for R1' 1942

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Space Modulator CH for R1
1942
Oil and incised lines on Formica
62 3/16 × 25 9/16 in.
Hattula Moholy-Nagy, Ann Arbor, Michigan
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photography by Peter Schälchli

 

 

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09
Mar
17

Exhibition: ‘A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 3rd December 2016 – 12th March 2017

 

My apologies to readers of Art Blart, but my postings will be short of comment in the next month or so as I try to take as much rest as possible. I have bad hands which is preventing me from using the keyboard. At the moment I am using dictation software to do the writing for me. I will keep the blog going as much as possible because it is my form of therapy for my mental health.

Which brings me to this posting, another slice of the brilliance of the European inter-war avant-garde, this time from Russia. Design, intense colouration (or lack of it), and complexity of form are hallmarks of this “new, militant art.” Photomontage, form and propaganda go hand in hand with this New Vision. The photograph and the cinema were social and essential elements of this new world order.

Perspective shifted. Pictorial planes fractured. Points of view pictured the unusual: from below, from above, with few vanishing points contained within the image or photomontage. Films had no sound and often no story and no actors. They were experimental intersections of man, machinery, and the world. Art was exciting and revolutionary. For me, Aleksandr Rodchenko is the star of the show. You only have to look at images such as Mother, Pioneer with Bugle, Pioneer girl, and the two photographs titled Dive (1934, below) – both with a sense of weightlessness and perspectival difference – to understand the genius of this artist.

It is indeed a telling indictment that such creativity, in both Russia and Germany (and by default, the rest of Europe), was snuffed out by two dictators who imposed on art a (usually masculine) utopian purity which stifled any hint of militant subversion and originality.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

We are breaking with the past, because we cannot accept its hypotheses. We ourselves are creating our own hypotheses anew and only upon them … can we build our new life and new world view.

.
Lyubov Popova

 

 

Various artists. 'Mirskontsa (Worldbackwards)' 1912

 

Various artists with Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Nikolai Rogovin, Vladimir Tatlin
Mirskontsa (Worldbackwards)
1912

 

 

For the hundredth anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci explains how artists such as Malevich, Rodchenko, and Vertov attempted to revolutionise Russian society through new means of artistic production – and how the styles developed by the Russian Avant-Garde still affect how we look at art today.

 

Natalia Goncharova (Russian, 1881-1962) 'Rayonism, Blue-Green Forest' 1913

 

Natalia Goncharova (Russian, 1881-1962)
Rayonism, Blue-Green Forest
1913
Oil on canvas
21 1/2 x 19 1/2″ (54.6 x 49.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation

 

Olga Rozanova (Russian, 1886-1918) 'The Factory and the Bridge' 1913

 

Olga Rozanova (Russian, 1886-1918)
The Factory and the Bridge
1913
Oil on canvas
32 3/4 x 24 1/4″ (83.2 x 61.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation

 

Kazimir Malevich (Russian, born Ukraine. 1878-1935) 'Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying' 1915

 

Kazimir Malevich (Russian, born Ukraine. 1878-1935)
Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying
1915
Oil on canvas
22 7/8 x 19″ (58.1 x 48.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquisition confirmed in 1999 by agreement with the Estate of Kazimir Malevich and made possible with funds from the Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest (by exchange)

 

Lyubov Popova (Russian, 1889-1924) 'Untitled' c. 1916-17

 

Lyubov Popova (Russian, 1889-1924)
Untitled
c. 1916-17
Gouache on board
19 1/2 x 15 1/2″ (49.5 x 39.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation

 

Kazimir Malevich. 'Suprematist Composition: White on White' 1918

 

Kazimir Malevich (Russian, born Ukraine. 1878-1935)
Suprematist Composition: White on White
1918
Oil on canvas
31 1/4 x 31 1/4″ (79.4 x 79.4 cm)
1935 Acquisition confirmed in 1999 by agreement with the Estate of Kazimir Malevich and made possible with funds from the Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest (by exchange)

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. ' Non-Objective Painting no. 80 (Black on Black)' 1918

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Non-Objective Painting no. 80 (Black on Black)
1918
Oil on canvas
32 1/4 x 31 1/4″ (81.9 x 79.4 cm)
Gift of the artist, through Jay Leyda

 

 

This work belongs to a series of eight black paintings Rodchenko made in direct response to a group of white paintings of the same year by the older and more established artist Kazimir Malevich. Malevich relied on a severely reduced palette of whites to suggest a floating form in an infinite spatial expanse; Rodchenko moved toward eliminating colour completely in order to focus instead on the material quality of the paintings surface. “Where the black works are winning is in the fact that they have no colour, they are strong through painting …,” declared artist Varvara Stepanova, Rodchenko’s wife. “Nothing besides painting exists.” Both series were first shown in Moscow in April 1919, in the 10th State Exhibition: Non-Objective Art and Suprematism. The black works were received with enthusiasm and helped establish Rodchenko as a leader of the Russian avant-garde. (MoMA gallery label 2015)

 

Jean Pougny (Ivan Puni) (Russian, born Finland. 1892-1956) 'Flight of Forms' 1919

 

Jean Pougny (Ivan Puni) (Russian, born Finland. 1892-1956)
Flight of Forms
1919
Gouache and pencil on paper
51 1/8 x 51 1/2″ (129.7 x 130.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

A new art was needed, armed by technology and chemistry, an art that stood side by side with socialist industry, a new, militant art, which could organize the will of the masses.

.
Gustav Klutsis

 

 

In the first decades after the 1917 Revolution, a central focus of the nascent Soviet Union was the modernisation of its vast territories. Through a series of comprehensive economic development plans, the socialist state attempted to institute rapid industrialisation, collectivise agriculture, achieve nationwide literacy, and update the infrastructure of towns and cities. Artists, often working in official capacities, captured these aspirations in a variety of projects, many of which were propagandistic.

Some turned to agitational photomontage, in which photographs and images culled from mass media were spliced together to create ideologically charged designs for posters, book covers, advertisements, and postcards. Artists also made illustrations for children’s books that feature didactic tales aimed at rallying the next generation of Soviet citizens. Architects were tasked with reconceiving domestic and civic spaces in order to advance a communal way of life, reflected in studies for buildings and triumphant photographs of construction. While much of this work celebrates Soviet might and ingenuity, Joseph Stalin’s repressive regime began to reign in the activities of artists and other cultural producers in the 1920s, terminating this period of utopian innovation in the early 1930s with the declaration of Socialist Realism as the official Soviet style.

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'Proun 1 D' 1920

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Proun 1 D
1920
One from a portfolio of eleven lithographs
Composition: 8 7/16 x 10 9/16″ (21.5 x 26.9 cm); sheet: 13 1/2 x 17 5/8″ (34.3 x 44.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Vincent d’Aquila and Harry Soviak Bequest, by exchange, Committee on Prints and Illustrated Books Fund, Orentreich Family Foundation, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Endowment, Mrs. Sash A. Spencer, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Peter H. Friedland, Maud I. Welles, Deborah Wye Endowment Fund, Riva Castlemen Endowment Fund, Lily Auchincloss Fund, Monroe Wheeler Fund, and John M. Shapiro
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'Proun 19D' 1920 or 1921

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Proun 19D
1920 or 1921
Gesso, oil, varnish, crayon, colored papers, sandpaper, graph paper, cardboard, metallic paint, and metal foil on plywood
38 3/8 x 38 1/4″ (97.5 x 97.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Katherine S. Dreier Bequest

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Spatial Construction no. 12' c. 1920

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Spatial Construction no. 12
c. 1920
Plywood, open construction partially painted with aluminum paint, and wire
24 x 33 x 18 1/2″ (61 x 83.7 x 47 cm)
Acquisition made possible through the extraordinary efforts of George and Zinaida Costakis, and through the Nate B. and Frances Spingold, Matthew H. and Erna Futter, and Enid A. Haupt Funds

 

 

The nesting ovals that compose this construction were measured out on a single sheet of aluminium-painted plywood, precisely cut, then rotated and suspended to make a three-dimensional object suggestive of planetary orbits. It was made at a time of both civic turmoil and great possibility in Russia, when Rodchenko and his fellow Constructivist artists sought to apply aesthetic ideals to everyday materials. They hoped their approach to art would help create a new language for the Communist state. Reflecting back on this time, Rodchenko said, “We created a new understanding of beauty, and enlarged the concept of art.”

 

Nikolai Suetin (Russian, 1897-1954) 'Teapot' c. 1923

 

Nikolai Suetin (Russian, 1897-1954)
Teapot
c. 1923
Porcelain with overglaze painted decoration
5 1/2 x 4 1/2″ (14 x 11.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Estée and Joseph Lauder Design Fund

 

Installation view of 'A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde'. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017

Installation view of 'A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde'. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017

Installation view of 'A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde'. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017

Installation view of 'A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde'. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017

 

Installation views of A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 2016-March 12, 2017
© 2016 The Museum of Modern Art
Photo: Robert Gerhardt

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art presents A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde, an exhibition that brings together 260 works from MoMA’s collection, tracing the arc of a period of artistic innovation between 1912 and 1935. The exhibition will be on view December 3, 2016 – March 12, 2017. Planned in anticipation of the centennial year of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the exhibition highlights breakthrough developments in the conception of Suprematism and Constructivism, as well as in avant-garde poetry, theater, photography, and film, by such figures as Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Lyubov Popova, Alexandr Rodchenko, Olga Rozanova, Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg, and Dziga Vertov, among others. The exhibition features a rich cross-section of works across several mediums – opening with displays of pioneering non-objective paintings, prints, and drawings from the years leading up to and immediately following the Revolution, followed by a suite of galleries featuring photography, film, graphic design, and utilitarian objects, a transition that reflects the shift of avant-garde production in the 1920s. Made in response to changing social and political conditions, these works probe and suggest the myriad ways that a revolution can manifest itself in an object. A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, Department of Photography, and Sarah Suzuki, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; with Hillary Reder, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints.

A series of works by artists including Natalia Goncharova and her husband and artistic collaborator Mikhail Larionov open the exhibition. Goncharova and Larionov sought to combine Western European developments such as Cubism and Futurism with a distinctly Russian character, drawing on history, folklore, and religious motifs for inspiration. One outgrowth of their efforts was Rayonism, an abstract style that derived its name from the use of dynamic rays of contrasting colour, exemplified in Goncharova’s Rayonism, Blue-Green Forest (1913). A hallmark of this period was a fertile collaboration between painters and poets that resulted in illustrated books, also on view in the exhibition. These collaborations rejected fine-art book traditions in favour of small, distinctly handmade volumes, such as the rare book Worldbackwards (1912), shown in an astonishing four variations, each with a unique, collaged cover.

Radical new efforts in painting and poetry are also featured, such as an unpublished, uncut sheet from poets Aleksei Kruchenykh and Velimir Khlebnikov’s Te li le (1914), with images by Olga Rozanova. The sheet features a poetic language conceived in 1913 by the pair called Zaum (“transrational,” “beyonsense,” or “transreason”), which frees letters and words from specific meanings, instead emphasising their aural and visual qualities. Painters likewise sought to push their medium to its limits, dismissing the strictures of realism and rationality in favour of advancing new abstract forms. The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10 (zeroten), held in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) in December 1915, highlighted two new models of abstraction. One, developed by Vladimir Tatlin, focused on a group of nonrepresentational Counter-Reliefs (“reliefs with a particular pronounced tension”). An example can be found in the exhibition in the exceedingly rare Brochure for Tatlin’s counter-reliefs exhibited at 0.10 (1915). The other, proposed by Kazimir Malevich, unveiled a radically new mode of abstract painting that abandoned reference to the outside world in favour of coloured geometric shapes floating against white backgrounds. Because this new style claimed supremacy over the forms of nature, Malevich called it Suprematism. The exhibition includes Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying (1915), which was featured in 0.10, and Suprematist Composition: White on White (1918), which ranks among the most iconoclastic paintings of its day.

While Suprematism’s focus on pure form had a spiritual bent, the adherents of Constructivism privileged the creation of utilitarian objects with orderly, geometric designs. In 1918, Rodchenko made Non-Objective Painting no. 80 (Black on Black), one of a series of eight black paintings he conceived in direct response to the group of white paintings by Malevich. By eliminating colour almost completely, Rodchenko underscored the material quality of the painting’s surface. Around this time, he also produced a series of “spatial constructions” focused on kineticism, marking a significant leap from his exploration of the painted surface to three-dimensional objects. 5 x 5 = 25: An Exhibition of Painting (1921), a brochure for an exhibition of the same title, typed by Varvara Stepanova, features contributions from Rodchenko, Lyubov Popova, Alexandra Exter, and Aleksandr Vesnin. Held in Moscow at the All-Russian Union of Poets in September 1921, the exhibition featured five works by each of the five participants, and was the Constructivist group’s last presentation of painting.

Between 1919 and 1927 El Lissitzky produced a large body of paintings, prints, and drawings that he referred to as Proun, an acronym for “Project for the Affirmation of the New” in Russian. A particular highlight is the portfolio Proun (1920), made during Lissitzky’s short but prolific period working at the art school in Vitebsk, alongside Malevich. Lissitzky asserted Proun is “the station on the way to the construction of a new form,” and in these lithographs, he arranges geometric forms in dynamic, overlapping relationships to create imagined spaces. It will be the first time this rare portfolio, acquired in 2013, will be on view. New developments in theater are surveyed through the example of Alexandra Exter, an artist deeply engaged with theatrical design and production, including several examples of her innovative set designs and costumes for the science-fiction film Aelita (1924). These are shown alongside prints from Lissitzky’s portfolio Victory Over the Sun, which he made after seeing a 1920 restaging of the seminal Cubo-Futurist opera of the same name, and features characters from the production transformed into “electromechanical” figurines.

As the 1920s progressed, photography and film surpassed painting and sculpture as the chosen medium for the avant-garde, moving works from the studio to the public sphere. The exhibition includes an in-depth look at Soviet avant-garde cinema, in a gallery that features clips from seminal films by Alexander Dovzhenko, Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Dziga Vertov, highlighting a variety of strategies in montage, including disjunctive cutting, extreme close-ups, unusual angles, and image superimposition. At this time, Lissitzky began to describe his work as fotopis (painting with photographs), a neologism that first appeared in the title of a maquette for a mural version of Record (1926), a photomontage included in the show. After turning away from painting, Rodchenko also found new means to build networks of communication – in photographs and book design. He collaborated with the progressive writers Nikolai Aseev, Osip Brik, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Sergei Tret’iakov on covers and layouts for the journal Novyi LEF (1927-28), a complete run of which is on view. Eschewing the conventional belly-button view in his photographs, Rodchenko’s pictures of this era – such as Mother (1924), Assembling for a Demonstration (1928-30), and Pioneer Girl (1930) – favour dynamic camera angles. Advocating for a cinematic, fractured representation of his subjects, Rodchenko also tried his hand at film, designing inter-titles for Dziga Vertov’s Kino-Pravda newsreel series.

The ideology of the Revolution touched all aspects of daily life, from economy to education. The most significant artists of the day, in accordance with state orders, were soon applying avant-garde tactics to create propagandistic work that would be easily comprehensible to the Soviet public at large. The final gallery of the exhibition contains this kind of material, including children’s books created by Vladimir Lebedev and Samuil Marshak, whose book designs balanced sophistication and accessibility, drawing on Cubism and Suprematism, with stories that nourished the intellectual and visual imagination. Also on view are film posters, by the brothers Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg, which feature radical uses of typography and colour, underscoring the relationship between graphic arts and the burgeoning Soviet cinema. The Constructivist architect Iakov Chernikov applied his ideas to imagine a future reflecting the avant-garde culture of the new Soviet Union. His Architectural Fantasies: 101 Compositions in Color, 101 Architectural Miniatures (1933) featured here, however, never had a chance to materialise. Joseph Stalin’s repressive regime effectively put an end to Constructivism and other avant-garde activities in the cultural sphere by the mid-1930s.

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'Announcer (Ansager)' 1923

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Announcer (Ansager) from Figurines: The Three-Dimensional Design of the Electro-Mechanical Show “Victory over the Sun” (Figurinen, die plastische Gestaltung der elektro-mechanischen Schau “Sieg über die Sonne”)
1920-21, published 1923
One from a portfolio of ten lithographs
Composition (irreg.): 13 3/4 x 11 7/8″ (35 x 30.2 cm); sheet: 21 x 18″ (53.3 x 45.7 cm)
Purchase

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'The Globetrotter' 1923

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
The Globetrotter from Figurines: Plastic Representations of the Electro-Mechanical Production Entitled “Victory over the Sun” (Figurinen, die plastische Gestaltung der elektro-mechanischen Schau “Sieg über die Sonne”)
1920-21, published 1923
One from a portfolio of ten lithographs
Composition (irreg.): 14 3/16 x 10 1/4″ (36 x 26 cm); sheet: 21 x 17 7/8″ (53.3 x 45.4cm)
Purchase

 

Alexandra Exter. 'Construction' 1922-23

 

Alexandra Exter
Construction
1922-23
Oil on canvas
35 1/8 x 35 3/8″ (89.2 x 89.9 cm)
The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956) 'Pro eto. Ei i mne' (About This. To Her and to Me) "Pro eto" by Vladimir Mayakovsky 1923

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Pro eto. Ei i mne (About This. To Her and to Me)
“Pro eto” by Vladimir Mayakovsky
1923
Book with letterpress cover and illustrations
Overall (closed): 9 1/16 x 6 1/8 x 1/8″ (23 x 15.5 x 0.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Judith Rothschild Foundation

 

 

Yakov Protozanov
Aelita Queen of Mars
NTSC
1924

 

Alexandra Exter "Guardian of Energy" 1924

 

Alexandra Exter
“Guardian of Energy” (costume design for the film “Aelita” by Yakov Protozanov)
1924
Ink, gouache, and pencil on paper
21 1/4 x 14 1/4″ (54 x 36.2 cm)
The J. M. Kaplan Fund, Inc.

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Mother' 1924

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Mother
1924
Gelatin silver print
8 7/8 x 6 1/2″ (22.5 x 16.5 cm)
Gift of the Rodchenko family
© 2017 Aleksandr Rodchenko/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'Record' 1926

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Record
1926
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 8 13/16″ (26.7 x 22.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941) 'Self-Portrait' 1924

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Self-Portrait
1924
Gelatin silver print
5 1/2 x 3 1/2″ (13.9 x 8.9 cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

 

The essence of New Vision photography is pointedly expressed in this picture, commonly known as The Constructor, which puts the act of seeing at center stage. Lissitzky’s hand, holding a compass, is superimposed on a shot of his head that explicitly highlights his eye: insight, it expresses, is passed through the eye and transmitted to the hand, and through it to the tools of production. Devised from six different exposures, the picture merges Lissitzky’s personae as photographer (eye) and constructor of images (hand) into a single likeness. Contesting the idea that straight photography provides a single, unmediated truth, Lissitzky held instead that montage, with its layering of one meaning over another, impels the viewer to reconsider the world. It thus marks a conceptual shift in the understanding of what a picture can be.

Gallery label from The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook, April 16, 2012–April 29, 2013

 

 

The (painted) picture fell apart together with the old world which it had created for itself. The new world will not need little pictures. If it needs a mirror, it has the photograph and the cinema.

.
El Lissitzky

 

 

By the mid-1920s, leading figures of the Soviet vanguard extolled photography, theater, and film as quintessential mediums of the future. Eager to answer Lenin’s call to build a new Soviet mass culture in the wake of the Revolution, artists embraced performative and lens-based mediums for their democratising potential. They also seized the opportunity presented by stage and costume design to realise Constructivist principles in real space.

Film, one of the most experimental mediums of these years, wielded a profound influence on Soviet visual culture, particularly graphic design and photography, as well as on international cinema. Dziga Vertov redefined still and motion-picture photography with the concept of kino-glaz (cine-eye), according to which the camera lens creates a novel perception of the world. Aleksandr Rodchenko was likewise inspired by photography’s ability to energise audiences with its thrilling images of a transformed reality, which he shaped with distinctive strategies: unconventional camera angles, radical foreshortening, and close-ups. Rodchenko’s commitment to mass communication is also manifest in his engagement with the illustrated press, exemplified by his cover and layout designs for the avant-garde journal Novyi Lef.

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956) Cover design for 'Novyi LEF: Journal of the Left Front of the Arts', no. 1 1928

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Cover design for Novyi LEF: Journal of the Left Front of the Arts, no. 1
1928
Letterpress
Page: 9 1/16 x 6″ (23 x 15.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Judith Rothschild Foundation

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Novyi LEF. Zhurnal levogo fronta iskusstv' (New LEF: Journal of the Left Front of the Arts), no. 7 1927

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko
Novyi LEF. Zhurnal levogo fronta iskusstv (New LEF: Journal of the Left Front of the Arts), no. 7
1927
Journal with letterpress cover and illustrations
Page: 8 15/16 x 5 15/16″ (22.7 x 15.1 cm)
Publisher: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, Moscow
Gift of The Judith Rothschild Foundation

 

 

Sergei Eisenstein (Russian, 1898-1948)
Potemkin
1925
35mm film (black and white and hand-colored, silent)
75 min.
Acquired from Reichsfilmarchiv

 

 

Vsevolod Pudovkin (Russian, 1893-1953)
Mat (Mother)
1926
35mm film (black and white, silent)
90 min.
Acquired from N.I.S., Soyuzintorkino, Moscow 1985

 

 

Mother (1926) [film based on Maxim Gorky’s famous novel]

In this film, the mother of Pavel Vlasov is drawn into the revolutionary conflict when her husband and son find themselves on opposite sides during a worker’s strike. After her husband dies during the failed strike, she betrays her son’s ideology in order to try, in vain, to save his life. He is arrested, tried in what amounts to a judicial farce, and sentenced to heavy labor in a prison camp. During his incarceration, his mother aligns herself with him and his ideology and joins the revolutionaries. In the climax of the movie, the mother and hundreds of others march to the prison in order to free the prisoners, who are aware of the plan and have planned their escape. Ultimately, the troops of the Tsar suppress the uprising, killing both mother and son in the final scenes.

 

 

Esther Shub (Ukrainian, 1894-1959)
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty
1927
35mm film (black and white, silent)

 

Gustav Klutsis (Russian, born Latvia) 'Memorial to Fallen Leaders' 1927

 

Gustav Klutsis (Russian, born Latvia)
Memorial to Fallen Leaders
1927
Cover with lithographed photomontage illustrations on front and back
13 1/2 x 10 1/4″ (34.3 x 26 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Judith Rothschild Foundation
© 2016 / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Vladimir Stenberg (Russian, 1899-1982) and Georgii Stenberg (Russian, 1900-1933) 'Symphony of a Big City' 1928

 

Vladimir Stenberg (Russian, 1899-1982) and Georgii Stenberg (Russian, 1900-1933)
Symphony of a Big City
1928
Lithograph
41 x 27 1/4″ (104 x 69 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Marshall Cogan Purchase Fund

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Untitled' 1927

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko
Untitled
1927
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 5 13/16″ (22.1 x 14.8 cm)
Gift of the Rodchenko family

 

Semyon Fridlyand. 'In the Gallery' 1927

 

Semyon Fridlyand
In the Gallery
1927
Gelatin silver print
8 9/16 x 6 5/8″ (21.7 x 16.8 cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Harold Edgerton, by exchange

 

 

Dziga Vertov (Russian, 1895-1954)
The Man with the Movie Camera
1929
35mm film (black and white, silent)
Acquired on exchange with Gosfilmofund

 

 

Man with a Movie Camera is an experimental 1929 silent documentary film, with no story and no actors by Soviet-Russian director Dziga Vertov, edited by his wife Elizaveta Svilova. Vertov’s feature film, produced by the film studio VUFKU, presents urban life in the Soviet cities of Kiev, Kharkov, Moscow and Odessa. From dawn to dusk Soviet citizens are shown at work and at play, and interacting with the machinery of modern life. To the extent that it can be said to have “characters,” they are the cameramen of the title, the film editor, and the modern Soviet Union they discover and present in the film.

This film is famous for the range of cinematic techniques Vertov invents, deploys or develops, such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop motion animations and self-reflexive visuals (at one point it features a split-screen tracking shot; the sides have opposite Dutch angles).

In the British Film Institute’s 2012 Sight & Sound poll, film critics voted Man with a Movie Camera the 8th best film ever made. In 2014 Sight & Sound also named it the best documentary of all time.

 

Dziga Vertov (Russian, 1895-1954) 'The Man with the Movie Camera' 1929

 

Dziga Vertov (Russian, 1895-1954)
The Man with the Movie Camera
1929
35mm film (black and white, silent)
Acquired on exchange with Gosfilmofund

 

 

Alexander Dovzhenko (Russian, born Russia (Chernigov province) 1894-1956)
Zemlya (Earth)
1930
35mm film (black and white, silent)
62 min.
Acquired from Gosfilmofond

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956) 'Pioneer with a Bugle' 1930

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Pioneer with a Bugle
1930
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 7 1/16″ (23.5 x 18 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Rodchenko Family

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Pioneer Girl' 1930

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Pioneer Girl
1930
Gelatin silver print
19 1/2 x 14 9/16″ (49.6 x 37 cm)
Gift of Alex Lachmann and friends of the Rodchenko family

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Assembling for a Demonstration' 1928-30

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Assembling for a Demonstration
1928-30
Gelatin silver print
19 1/2 x 13 7/8″ (49.5 x 35.3 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. John Spencer Fund

 

Iakov Chernikhov. 'Arkhitekturnye Fantazii' before 1933 Letterpress

 

Iakov Chernikhov
Arkhitekturnye Fantazii
before 1933
Letterpress
12 x 8 7/8″ (30.5 x 22.5 cm)
Arthur A. Cohen Purchase Fund

 

 

In his introduction to Architectural Fantasies: 101 Compositions, Iakov Chernikov’s sixth and final volume on design theory, he defended the significance of visionary paper architecture: “Not without reason, however, have great thinkers of all times accorded vast importance to fantasy, as being the forerunner of any kind of progress. To look one-sidedly at the idea of fantasy and not to consider its positive role in all fields of culture and art-this is to make a great mistake.” For Chernikov the fantasy drawing offered the architect an effective means of liberating himself from convention and imagining a future reflecting the avant-garde culture of the new Soviet Union.

As a Constructivist, and like contemporaries such as Kasimir Malevich and El Lissitzky, Chernikov was possessed by the powers of abstraction and geometry. This is reflected in the phrase Combination of curvilinear and rectilinear forms along principles of design, the rather perfunctory subtitle for Complex Architectural Invention (composition no. 49 from Architectural Fantasies): this is a formal composition based on line (curved or straight), plane, surface, body, and volume. The excitement and brilliance of Chernikov’s fantasy lie in his dynamic handling of diagonal lines, ellipses, and bright colors, presented in a dizzying axonometric view. The imagery, unabashedly industrial in character yet devoid of any context or program, is remarkably fresh and pregnant with possibility.

In producing his Architectural Fantasies Chernikov was interested not only in self-discovery but in inspiring his viewers. The seeds of his fantasies, however, never had a chance to germinate in the Soviet Union: Stalin’s repressive regime, which effectively put an end to Constructivism in the 1930s, favored a banal architecture based on monumental classicism and Social Realism. The potential of Architectural Fantasies lay dormant until Chernikov and other Constructivist architects were “rediscovered” in the 1980s, inspiring a new generation of architects worldwide in a movement that was labeled “deconstructivist.”

Publication excerpt from Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, pp. 78-79

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Dive' 1934

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Dive
1934
Gelatin silver print
11 3/4 x 9 5/16″ (29.9 x 23.6 cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Dive' 1934

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Dive
1934
Gelatin silver print
11 11/16 x 9 3/8″ (29.7 x 23.8 cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

 

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15
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Kati Horna’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 3rd June – 21st September 2014

 

I really love the work of artists such as Kati Horna and Florence Henri “with the production of collages and photomontages inspired by the avant-garde movements of the 1930s (the Bauhaus, Surrealism, German Neue Sachlichkeit, Russian Constructivism).”

Horna’s photographs have more of a political edge than that of Florence Henri, with her unique photographic reportage of the Spanish Civil War between 1937-39 and her Hitler series both having a strong social critique. Here is another politically aware artist who stood up for the cause, who recorded the “everyday life for the civilian population through a vision that was in empathy with the environment and the people.” Again, here is another who was lucky to survive the maelstrom of the Second World War, who would have certainly ended up dead if she and her Andalusian artist husband José Horna had not fled Paris in 1939 for their adopted country Mexico.

Marcus

PS I spent hours cleaning up the press images, there were in a really poor state, but the work was so worthwhile… they really sing now!

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Many thankx to the Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

This summer, the Jeu de Paume, which is celebrating 10 years devoted to the image, will be inviting the public to discover Kati Horna (1912-2000), an avant-garde, humanist photographer, who was born in Hungary and exiled in Mexico, where she documented the local art scene.

 

 

Robert Capa (attributed to) 'Kati Horna in the Studio of József Pécsi' Budapest, 1933

 

 

Robert Capa (attributed to)
Kati Horna in the Studio of József Pécsi
Budapest, 1933
Gelatin silver print
10.5 x 7.5 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

 

“In collaboration with the Museo Amparo in Puebla (Mexico), the Jeu de Paume is presenting the first retrospective of the work of photographer Kati Horna (Szilasbalhási, Hungary, 1912-Mexico, 2000), showing more than six decades of work in Hungary, France, Spain and Mexico. Kati Horna, a photographer whose adopted homeland was Mexico, was one of a generation of Hungarian photographers (including André Kertész, Robert Capa, Eva Besnyö, László Moholy-Nagy, Nicolás Muller, Brassaï, Rogi André, Ergy Landau and Martin Munkácsi) forced to flee their country due to the conflicts and social upheaval of the 1930s.

Cosmopolitan and avant-garde, Kati Horna was known above all for her images of the Spanish Civil War, produced at the request of the Spanish Republican government between 1937 and 1939. Her work is characterised by both its adherence to the principles of Surrealist photography and her very personal approach to photographic reportage.

This major retrospective helps to bring international recognition to this versatile, socially committed, humanist photographer, highlighting her unusual artistic creativity and her contribution to photojournalism. It offers a comprehensive overview of the work of this artist, who started out as a photographer in Hungary at the age of 21, in the context of the European avant-garde movements of the 1930s: Russian Constructivism, the Bauhaus school, Surrealism and German Neue Sachlichkeit. Her vast output, produced both in Europe and Mexico, her adopted country, is reflected in a selection of over 150 works – most of them vintage prints, the vast majority of them unpublished or little known.

In Mexico, Kati Horna formed a new family with the émigré artists Remedios Varo, Benjamin Péret, Emerico ‘Chiki’ Weisz, Edward James and, later on, Leonora Carrington. In parallel with her reportages, she took different series of photographs of visual stories, extraordinary creations featuring masks and dolls, motifs that began to appear in her work in the 1930s.

Kati Horna also became the great portraitist of the Mexican literary and artistic avant-garde; her visionary photographs captured the leading artists in Mexico during the 1960s, such as Alfonso Reyes, Germán Cueto, Remedios Varo, Pedro Friedeberg, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Mathias Goeritz and Leonora Carrington.

The exhibition is divided into five periods: her beginnings in Budapest, Berlin and Paris between 1933 and 1937; Spain and the Civil War from 1937 to 1939; Paris again in 1939; then Mexico. The exhibition also presents a number of documents, in particular the periodicals that she contributed to during her travels between Hungary, France, Spain and Mexico. The works come from the Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna, the Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica de España, Salamanca, the Museo Amparo, Puebla, as well as private collections.”

Press release from the Jeu de Paume website

 

Kati Horna. 'Invierno en el patio' [Winter in the Courtyard] Paris, 1939

 

Kati Horna
Invierno en el patio [Winter in the Courtyard]
Paris, 1939
Gelatin silver print
18.8 x 18.3 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

 

Beginnings: Budapest, Berlin And Paris

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Afterwards I returned to Paris, and do you know why I didn’t die of hunger in Paris? Before I left, everyone 
mocked me, “there’s the photographer”, I was the photographer of eggs. I had this idea of being the first one to do things, not with figurines, but little stories with eggs, and it was that wonderful draughtsman who subsequently committed suicide who did the faces for me… The first was the romantic story of a carrot and a potato. The carrot declared its love to the potato. He always did the faces and I staged the scenes. I took the photos with my big camera with 4 x 5 negatives.

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Kati Horna

 

Born in Hungary to a family of bankers of Jewish origin during a period of political and social instability, Kati Horna would always be deeply marked by the violence, injustice and danger around her. This situation helped to forge her ideological commitment, her perpetual search for freedom, her particular way of denouncing injustice, as well as her compassionate and human vision, like that of Lee Miller and her pictures of the Second World War. As was the case for her great childhood friend Robert Capa, to whom she would remain close throughout her life, photography became a fundamental means of expression.

At the age of 19 she left Budapest to live in Germany for a year, where she joined the Bertolt Brecht collective. She frequented photographer friends and compatriots Robert Capa and ‘Chiki’ Weisz, as well as other major figures in Hungarian photography, such as László Moholy-Nagy – who at the time was a teacher at the Bauhaus school – and Simon Guttman, founder of the Dephot agency (Deutscher Photodienst). On her return from Budapest, she enrolled in the studio of József Pécsi – the famous Hungarian photographer (1889-1956) – before leaving her birth country again, in 1933, to settle in Paris.

It was during this period of apprenticeship that her own aesthetic took shape, which marked her entire career, with the production of collages and photomontages inspired by the avant-garde movements of the 1930s (the Bauhaus, Surrealism, German Neue Sachlichkeit, Russian Constructivism). Paris was a cosmopolitan capital and Surrealism was at its height at the time. This movement heavily influenced Kati Horna’s style, both through its themes and its techniques, be it the narrative collage, superimposition or photomontage. Her photography was closely linked to the arts of the image, used as an illustrative technique and as a support for a poetics of the object. Her taste for stories and staged images are clearly evident. From 1933 she worked for the Lutetia-Press agency, for whom she did her first photo stories: Mercado de pulgas [Flea Market] (1933), which would not be published until 1986 in the Mexican periodical Foto Zoom, and Cafés de París (1934).

 

Kati Horna. 'Untitled' Paris, 1939

 

Kati Horna
Untitled
Paris, 1939
From the Muñecas del miedo series [Dolls of Fear],
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 22.8 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'Robert Capa in the Studio of József Pécsi' Budapest, 1933

 

Kati Horna
Robert Capa in the Studio of József Pécsi
Budapest, 1933
Gelatin silver print
25.3 x 20.1 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'Untitled' Paris, 1937

 

Kati Horna
Untitled
Paris, 1937
From the Hitlerei series [Hitler series]
in collaboration with Wolfgang Burger
Gelatin silver print
16.8 x 12 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

 

Spain And The Civil War

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Photography, with its various possibilities, enables one to show, liberate and develop one’s own sensibility 
which can be expressed in graphic images.

And at the moment of pressing the shutter you had to keep the image, let your emotion, discovery and visual surprise flow, the moment had to be kept in your head. That’s what I call developing one’s visual memory.

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Kati Horna

 

Between 1937 and 1939, Kati Horna covered the Spanish Civil War with great sensitivity. The Spanish Republican government asked her to produce images on the Civil War. Thus, between 1937 and 1939 she photographed the places where the major events of the war took place, in the Aragon province, in the country’s cities (Valencia, Madrid, Barcelona and Lerida), as well as a number of strategic villages in Republican Spain.

A collection of more than 270 negatives has survived from this period, today conserved in the Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica de España, Salamanca. They bear witness to the reality of the conflict at the front as well as, and above all, everyday life for the civilian population through a vision that was in empathy with the environment and the people. Committed to the anarchist cause, she became the editor of the periodical Umbral, where she would meet her future husband, the Andalusian anarchist José Horna – and worked on the cultural periodical of the National Confederation of Labour, Libre-Studio. She also collaborated on the periodicals Tierra y Libertad, Tiempos Nuevos and Mujeres Libres, publications that are being exhibited for the first time. At the time, her work was distinguished by its photomontages, which have both a symbolic and metaphorical character.

 

Kati Horna. 'Untitled, Vélez Rubio, Almeria province, Andalusia, Spanish Civil War' 1937

 

Kati Horna
Untitled, Vélez Rubio, Almeria province, Andalusia, Spanish Civil War
1937
Gelatin silver print
25.5 x 20.5 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'Subida a la catedral [Ascending to the Cathedral], Spanish Civil War' Barcelona 1938

 

Kati Horna
Subida a la catedral [Ascending to the Cathedral], Spanish Civil War
Barcelona, 1938
Gelatin silver print (photomontage)
22.2 x 16.6 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'Los Paraguas, mitin de la CNT' [Umbrellas, Meeting of the CNT], Spanish Civil War Barcelona, 1937

 

Kati Horna
Los Paraguas, mitin de la CNT [Umbrellas, Meeting of the CNT], Spanish Civil War
Barcelona, 1937
Gelatin silver print
24.2 x 19.2 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

 

Mexico

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I am in an existential crisis. Today everyone is running, today everyone is driving. My pictures? They were the 
product of a creative love, linked to my experiences and the way they were taken. I was never in a hurry.

S.nob was a joy… I don’t know why I enjoyed myself so much, but the facility that Salvador [Elizondo] and the team, and Juan [García Ponce] gave me, a great creativity came out of me.

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Kati Horna

 

Kati Horna returned to Paris in 1939. Her husband, the Andalusian artist José Horna, enlisted in the Ebra division that covered the retreat of the Spanish civilians to France. In October, as soon as he reached Prats-de-Mollo, in the French Pyrenees, he was incarcerated in a camp for Spanish refugees. Kati Horna succeeded in getting him freed. They left for Paris where they were again harassed, obliging them to flee France for Mexico. Mexico would become her final homeland.

During her everyday life she came into contact with some of the extraordinary figures of Surrealism (Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Benjamin Péret and Edward James) and the Panic movement (Alejandro Jodorowsky), as well as avant-garde Mexican artists, writers and architects (Mathias Goeritz, Germán Cueto, Pedro Friedeberg, Salvador Elizondo, Alfonso Reyes and Ricardo Legorreta).

Kati Horna established herself as a chronicler of the period, leaving for posterity a unique corpus. In Mexico, she worked as a reporter for periodicals such as Todo (1939), Nosotros (1944-1946), Mujeres (1958-1968), Mexico this Month (1958-1965), S.nob (1962) and Diseño (1968-1970). During the last 20 years of her life, she also taught photography at the Universidad Iberoamericana and the San Carlos Academy (Univesidad Nacional Autónoma de México), where she trained an entire generation of contemporary photographers.

Horna’s quotes come from the catalogue, co-published by the Jeu de Paume and the Museo Amparo

 

Cover of the magazine S.nob No. 2 (27 June 1962)

 

Cover of the magazine S.nob No. 2 (27 June 1962)
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'Untitled, La Castañeda psychiatric hospital, Mixcoac' Mexico, 1944

 

Kati Horna
Untitled, La Castañeda psychiatric hospital, Mixcoac
Mexico, 1944
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'Untitled, Carnaval de Huejotzingo, Puebla' 1941

 

Kati Horna
Untitled, Carnaval de Huejotzingo, Puebla
1941
Gelatin silver print
19.5 x 21.5 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'Untitled, Oda a la necrofília series [Ode to Necrophilia]' Mexico 1962

 

Kati Horna
Untitled
Mexico, 1962
From the Oda a la necrofília series [Ode to Necrophilia]
Gelatin silver print
25.4 x 20.8 cm
Museo Amparo Collection
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'El botellón' [The Bottle] Mexico, 1962

 

Kati Horna
El botellón [The Bottle]
Mexico, 1962
From the Paraísos artificiales series [Artificial Paradises]
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 18.9 cm
Collection Museo Amparo
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'Remedios Varo' Mexico, 1957

 

Kati Horna
Remedios Varo
Mexico, 1957
Gelatin silver print
25.3 x 20.3 cm
Private collection
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'Antonio Souza y su esposa Piti Saldivar' [Antonio Souza and his Wife Piti Saldivar] Mexico, 1959

 

Kati Horna
Antonio Souza y su esposa Piti Saldivar [Antonio Souza and his Wife Piti Saldivar]
Mexico, 1959
Gelatin silver print
25 x 20.3 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'José Horna elaborando la maqueta de la casa de Edward James' [José Horna Working on the Maquette for Edward James's House] Mexico, 1960

 

Kati Horna
José Horna elaborando la maqueta de la casa de Edward James [José Horna Working on the Maquette for Edward James’s House]
Mexico, 1960
Gelatin silver print
25.3 x 20.3 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

Kati Horna. 'Mujer y máscara' [Woman with Mask] Mexico, 1963

 

Kati Horna
Mujer y máscara [Woman with Mask]
Mexico, 1963
Gelatin silver print
25 x 19.7 cm
Archivo Privado de Fotografía y Gráfica Kati y José Horna
© 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
T: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 12.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Friday: 12.00 – 19.00
Saturday and Sunday: 10.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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06
Jul
12

Exhibition: ‘Building the Revolution: 
Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 with photographs by Richard Pare
’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 5th April to 9th July 2012

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Ooh, ooh, ooh, I’m in love with the design and the photograph of the Gosplan Garage! The garage survived the Second World War but, like the Cathedral Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, it is now hemmed in and surrounded by cars and apartments (see the YouTube video). Looking at early photographs of both buildings – in the basement of the Sagrada Familia if you go, the Cathedral surrounded by green fields and cows –  you realise what wonderful space they had to breathe, to exist in the world. Unfortunately, no more!

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Many thankx to Martin-Gropius-Bau for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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El Lissitzky
Sketch for Proun 6B
1919 – 1921
Pencil and gouache on paper
34.6 x 44.7 cm
© Courtesy the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki

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Photographer unknown
Gosplan Garage: general view
c. 1936
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
13.6 x 20 cm
Architects: Konstantin Melnikov with V. I. Kurochkin, 1936
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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Melnikov, Konstantin Stepanovich (1890-1974)

Born on the outskirts of Moscow into a poor family of peasant origin, Melnikov served a short apprenticeship as an icon painter and was then apprenticed to an engineering firm, one of whose owners noticed his talent for drawing and sent him to the Moscow Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. He graduated initially in painting and then in 1917 in architecture. From 1918 he worked in a Mossovet architectural studio under Aleksei Schusev and Ivan Zholtovskii but his early projects for housing schemes show him abandoning the Classicism of his teachers. In his pavilion for the Makhorka tobacco firm at the 1923 All-Union Agricultural Exhibition Melnikov developed this exuberant angularity by giving different parts of the pavilion different heights and setting the sloping roofs at right angles to each other. Irregular fenestration and an external staircase – crowded with visitors in some photographs – add to the sense of animation. The construction is entirely of timber, the first evidence of Melnikov’s abiding interest in combining traditional materials with avant-garde design. His Soviet Pavilion for the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris would also feature timber construction, an animated roofscape and an external staircase. However, it achieved a more logical design by simplifying the plan into a rectangle bisected by stairs rising and descending across its centre. During the second half of the 1920s Melnikov completed five workers’ clubs in the Moscow region for the Rusakov (1927), Frunze, Kauchuk, Pravda and Burevestnik trades unions. He favoured interiors with large flexible spaces, sometimes using movable panels, and opposed the Functionalist tendency to create a large number of highly specialised areas. This gave him the freedom to mould bold internal volumes and create dramatic exteriors. His own house, consisting of two interlocking cylinders, was designed on the same principles (1927-31). His garages – Bahkmetevskaia, Novo Ryanskaia and Gosplan (1936) – on the other hand, though still characterised by dramatic exteriors, are based on a careful analysis of vehicular movement. Despite being briefly associated with ASNOVA, Melnikov appears a rather solitary figure, his beliefs about the design process differing from the main groupings of 1920s architects. Heavily criticised in the 1930s for his ‘Formalism’, he was largely excluded from employment and teaching and no significant buildings were constructed to his design during the last 40 years of his life.

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Photographer unkown
Bakery: exterior showing the four production levels
1938
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
9.3 x 14.6 cm
Engineer: Georgii Marsakov, 1931
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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In 1931 the engineer Georgii Marsakov designed a mass-production bakery in Moscow and the Narvskii Factory Kitchen opened in St Petersburg to provide communal eating facilities for local residents. Rapid expansion of motorised transport called for a significant reappraisal of the garage, for which Konstantin Melnikov produced four highly innovative designs in Moscow.

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Photographer unknown
Havsko-Shabolovskii residential block and Shabolovska Radio tower viewed from the walls of the Donskoy Monastery
1929
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
11.5 x 16.9 cm
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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Liubov Popova
Spatial Force Construction
1921
Oil and marble dust on plywood
71 x 63.9 cm
© Courtesy the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki

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Photographer unknown
DneproGES: dam under construction
1931
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
12.3 x 17.3 cm
Aleksandr Vesnin, Nikolai Kolli, Georgii Orlov, Sergei Andrievskii, 1927-32
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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The DneproGES Dam and Hydroelectric Power Station (designed with Nikolai Kolli, Georgii Orlov and Sergei Andrievskii, 1927-32) represents not only Vesnin’s first important industrial project but also a major achievement of Stalin’s First Five Year Plan.

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The exhibition Building the Revolution sheds light on an area of the Soviet avant-garde that has remained relatively unknown in Europe and beyond: architecture. Even in Russia and the other successor states of the former Soviet Union the names of most of the architects have been largely forgotten. Their structures have not become part of the collective cultural memory to the extent that the “New Building” movement in the West has.

The exhibition presents this impressive chapter in the history of the avant-garde in an unusual way in that it binds together three thematic strands. Selected works of the early avant-garde, such as those of El Lissitzky, Gustav Klutsis, Liubov Popova, Alexander Rodchenko or Vladimir Tatlin, show the artists’ intense preoccupation from 1915 onwards with questions of form, space and texture. After the Revolution they were active in the various bodies concerned with the implementation of these ideals, such as the Commission for the Synthesis of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1919-20). It was there that the architects Nikolai Ladovskii, Vladimir Krinsky and the painter Rodchenko created the first designs for town planning and communal housing. In 1919 Tatlin produced his famous design for a “Monument to the Third International” – a complex engineering structure with moving spaces. Although never built, its visionary potential, and dynamic formal language influenced the later architecture of Constructivism. Whereas the impressive pictures and drawings of the Costakis Collection in Thessaloniki make clear what a role was played by architectural themes in the early artistic designs, vintage prints from the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture in Moscow give an idea of the unleashing of architectural energies which took place a few years later. The historical photographs show that the new structures embodied a new age, not only in a typological sense, but in terms of scale. They towered above the old urban buildings and acted as a torch signalling the coming industrialization and transformation of the country. The photographs of the renowned British architectural photographer, Richard Pare, on the other hand, lead the viewer back to the present. Pare had begun to rediscover this lost avant-garde in 1993. In the course of several trips to Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as to the former Soviet republics, he documented what remained of the buildings. His shots bring out their beauty and the inventiveness of their creators while at the same time tracing the course of their decay. In that sense they draw a picture of a post-Soviet society that is unaware of its extraordinary heritage.

What was new about this architecture was not only the formal idiom, but also the tasks it was supposed to perform. With the building of the new society workers’ clubs, trade union houses, communal apartments, sanatoria for the workers, state-owned department stores, party and administrative buildings, as well as power stations and industrial plants to modernize the country.

The first important structure to be erected after the Revolution was Vladimir Shukhov’s Shabolovka Radio Tower, built in the years 1919-22 and consisting of six hyperboloids mounted on top of one another. At 150 metres it was the tallest tower in the world of its kind at the time. Its elegant filigree structure became a symbol of how all that was old and ponderous could be surmounted. Rodchenko’s well-known photos of the radio tower – today seen as icons of avant-garde photography – stress the dynamics from above and below. Pare’s shots of the tower focus more on details, thus emphasizing the construction techniques of the time.

The achievements of Russian engineers like Shukhov, with their novel technical designs, influenced the development of an architecture that used clear, geometrical forms that were in keeping with its functions. In the course of the 1920s there arose two clearly defined tendencies in architecture: Rationalism and Constructivism. In 1923 representatives of the first founded the Association of New Architects (ASNOVA), whose leading light was Ladovskii. Among the Constructivists Alexander Vesnin and Moisei Ginzburg played major roles. In 1925 the Constructivist architects of Moscow joined together to form the Society of Contemporary Architects (OSA). There were also other tendencies as well as outstanding individualists, such as Konstantin Melnikov. Despite polemical squabbles among the tendencies a modern style of building had consolidated itself by the end of the 1920s.

In the course of the industrialization of the country under the first Five-Year Plan (1928-32) the building of new towns proceeded apace. This gave rise to questions concerning the concept of the city, for which various solutions were proposed, such as the “horizontal skyscrapers” for Moscow or Ladovskii’s “parabola” as the basic pattern of urban development. Quite a few of the buildings photographed by Pare were developed for communal living. The Narkomfin (People’s Commissariat for Finance) residential block built in Moscow in 1930 by Ginzburg and Ignati Milinis was one of the most experimental projects of that era. In addition to two floors of apartments it contained a communal canteen, a crèche, a gymnasium and a scullery. Other types of construction designed to promote the collectivist way of life were canteen kitchens, three of which were built in what was then Leningrad by a group associated with Iosif Meerzon and representing Rationalism. Workers’ clubs and palaces of culture offered numerous educational opportunities, symbolizing with their dynamic forms the role of the new class in the urban environment.

When in the mid-1930s the political climate in the Soviet Union underwent a fundamental change, and a monumental style of architecture based on Classical models found favour with the powers that be, this exciting chapter of avant-gardism came to an end and sank into oblivion.

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El Lissitzky
Monument to Rosa Luxemburg
1919 – 21
Pencil, ink and gouache on paper
9.7 x 9.7 cm
© Courtesy the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki

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M.A. Ilyin
Narkomfin Communal House: corner detail of residential block
1931
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
11.6 x 8.0 cm
Architects: Moisei Ginzburg, Ignatii Milinis, 1930
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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Moisei Ginzburg

There was also the exchange with the Europeans. Le Corbusier came to Moscow and met and shared ideas with a number of architects including Moisei Ginzburg, the founder of the Constructivist movement and its chief theoretician. His 1924 treatise Style and Epoch was the most influential document of the Constructivist movement. Because he was Jewish, he was prevented from undertaking his architectural training in Russia and went to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan. Aleksandr Rodchenko travelled to Paris with Melnikov, who built the Soviet Pavilion at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. They were all very well versed in European culture of the time. Ginzburg’s Style and Epoch responds to Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture of the previous year, but Ginzburg takes the warship and the communal house rather than the luxury liner and the private villa as his examples.

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Gustav Klutsis
Design for Loudspeaker No.7
1922
Pencil, ink and gouache on paper
26.9 x 17.7 cm
© Courtesy the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki

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Alexander Rodchenko
Linearism
1920
Oil on canvas
110.5 x 78 cm
© Courtesy the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki

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M.A. Ilyin
Melnikov House: entrance façade
1931
Archival Index Card and photographs(s)
11.7 x 9.0 cm
Konstantin Melnikov, 1927-31
© Courtesy the Department of Photographs, Schusev
State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

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Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
T: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening hours:
Wednesday to Monday 10 – 20 hrs
Tuesday closed

Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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09
Aug
11

Exhibition: ‘Alexander Rodchenko – Revolution in Photography’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 28th May – 14th August 2011

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Many thankx to Fotomuseum Winterthur for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Alexander Rodchenko
Pine trees, Pushkino
1927
Gelatin-silver print, Vintage print

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Alexander Rodchenko / Warwara Stepanowa
Young Gliders
Sketch of a double page for the magazine USSR under Construction
1933
Gelatin-silver print, Vintage print, Photomontage
41.2 x 60.5 cm
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Rodchenko’s Archive /
2011, ProLitteris, Zurich

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Alexander Rodchenko
Morning exercises, Student Campus in Lefortovo
1932
Gelatin-silver print, Vintage print
22.8 x 29.5 cm
Private collection
© Rodchenko’s Archive /
2011, ProLitteris, Zurich

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Alexander Rodchenko
Shukhov Tower
1929
Gelatin-silver print, Vintage print
21.6 x 29.5 cm
Private collection
© Rodchenko’s Archive /
2011, ProLitteris, Zurich

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“Modernism made photography what it is. It gave it self-confidence and made it trust itself. Self confident because photography in the 1920s recognized and developed its own possibilities and qualities: a probing vision of the world, an investigation of the visible reality from various perspectives, direct, clear, from above, below, behind, from the front, but without references to the pool of art history. Russian Constructivism is an important part of this great shift. In 1924, Alexander Rodchenko (1891–1956), already known as a painter, sculptor, and designer, conquered traditional photography with the slogan “Our duty is to experiment!” This resulted in a reconsideration of the concept and role of photography. Conceptual work entered the stage. Instead of being an illustration of reality, photography became a means to visually represent intellectual constructs, and the artist became an “artist-engineer”.

Yet Rodchenko was much more than a dynamic image maker. He wrote manifestos to accompany almost every one of his picture series, tirelessly promoting his concept of Russian Constructivism to the world. Destabilizing diagonals, harsh contrasts, tilted views, and picture and text collages are design elements found in his photographs. To this day they form, together with his texts, a unique document of the indefatigable artistic energy that is also manifest in Alexander Rodchenko’s posters, invitation cards, and publications.

At the beginning of the 1920s, Rodchenko worked together with his friend the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky on bold, photographic illustrations for Mayakovsky’s volume of poems Pro Eto. Rodchenko soon became coeditor, with Mayakovsky, of the magazine LEV (Left Front of the Arts), and was responsible for its cover designs in the years 1923 – 24. He designed posters for Sergei Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin and was commissioned to design the Soviet pavilion to the world exhibition in Paris in 1925. The experimental and innovative “new vision” was celebrated across Europe. Rodchencko took part in the pioneering exhibition Film und Foto (Film and Photo) of the Stuttgart Werkbund in 1929. Yet already at the beginning of the 1930s, the mood had shifted in Russia; photography was increasingly being instrumentalized by the state in the interests of socialism. Rodchenko was repeatedly forced to defend himself against accusations of formalism made over his photograph Pioneer with Trumpet, and, in the end, he was expelled from the October artists group, which he himself had cofounded in 1928, for refusing to adapt his style of working to the new times.”

Press release from the Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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Alexander Rodchenko

Caricature Showing Osip Brik, variant of a cover for LEF Magazine
1924
Gelatin-silver print
24.2 x 17.9 cm
Private collection
© Rodchenko’s Archive /
2011, ProLitteris, Zurich

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Alexander Rodchenko
Portrait of Mother
1924
Gelatin-silver print, Vintage print
22.7 x 16.5 cm
Private collection
© Rodchenko’s Archive /
2011, ProLitteris, Zurich

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Alexander Rodchenko
Pioneer with a trumpet
1930
Gelatin-silver print, Vintage print
44.5 x 38.5 cm
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Rodchenko’s Archive /
2011, ProLitteris, Zurich

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Alexander Rodchenko
Gears
1929
Gelatin-silver print, Vintage print
28.8 x 23 cm
Private collection
© Rodchenko’s Archive /
2011, ProLitteris, Zurich

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Alexander Rodchenko
Mosselprom Building
1926
Gelatin-silver print, Vintage print
29 x 23.3 cm
Private collection
© Rodchenko’s Archive /
2011, ProLitteris, Zurich

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Girl with Leica' 1934

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Alexander Rodchenko
Girl with a Leica
1934
Gelatin-silver print, Vintage print
45 x 29.5 cm
Private collection
© Rodchenko’s Archive /
2011, ProLitteris, Zurich

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Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Wednesday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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