Lef


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Lef

 

(Left Front of the Arts), a literary and art association established in Moscow in late 1922.

Members of LEF included such poets as N. N. Aseev, V. V. Kamenskii, S. I. Kirsanov, P. V. Neznamov, and until 1927, B. L. Pasternak. Artists belonging to LEF included A. M. Rodchenko, V. F. Stepanova, and V. E. Tatlin. In addition, several art critics and theoreticians and teachers at Vkhutemas (State Higher Arts and Technical Studios) and Vkhutein (State Higher Arts and Technical Institute) belonged to the association, including B. I. Arvatov, O. M. Brik, N. F. Chuzhak, V. B. Shklovskii, B. A. Kushner, and A. M. Lavinskii. The association was headed by V. V. Mayakovsky. Film-makers maintained close relations with LEF, including S. M. Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, L. V. Kuleshov, and E. M. Shub.

LEF theoreticians advanced the theory of art as one of “life construction” and the theory of the “social commission” (the artist is only an “artisan” carrying out the assignments of his class). They also called for “revolution in form,” which led to negation of the artistic-cognitive functions of art, to an underestimation of the classic legacy, and to formalistic experimentation. LEF demanded the creation of utilitarian works with specific purposes. Their program of production art facilitated the genesis of Soviet artistic construction.

Members of LEF rejected many traditional forms of artistic creativity, including easel painting in the fine arts and artistic intent in literature. (This rejection was contradicted by the creative efforts of LEF poets, particularly Mayakovsky.) In lieu of traditional forms, they offered the document, which they called the literature of fact.

The association published the journals LEF (1923–25) and Novyi LEF (1927–28) under the editorship of Mayakovsky. In mid-1928, Mayakovsky, recognizing the errors of LEF, left the association; it continued to exist until 1929, when on Mayakovsky’s initiative it was transformed into REF (Revolutionary Front of the Arts). LEF’S theories influenced the activities of the State Higher Arts and Technical Studios and the Institute of Art Culture.

REFERENCES

“LEF.” In Sovetskoe iskusstvo za 15 let: Materialy i dokumentatsiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1933. Pages 291–95.
Pertsov, V. O. “Maiakovskii v zhurnale Lef.” In his book Maiakovskii: Zhizn ‘I tvorchestvo, vol. 2 (1917–24). Moscow, 1971.
Surma, Iu. Slow v boiu: Estetika Maiakovskogo i literaturnaia bor’ba 20-kh godov. Leningrad, 1963.
Metchenko, A. Maiakovskii: Ocherk tvorchestva. Moscow, 1964.
“LEF” and “Novyi LEF.” In Ocherki istorii russkoi sovetskoi zhurnalistiki: 1917–1932. Moscow, 1966.

L. K. SHVETSOVA

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