Rodchenko, Aleksandr Mikhailovich
Born Nov. 23 (Dec. 5), 1891, in St. Petersburg; died Dec. 3, 1956, in Moscow. Soviet designer, graphic artist, photographer, and theatrical and motion-picture set designer.
Rodchenko studied at the Kazan School of Art from 1910 to 1914. In the late 1910’s he exhibited his abstract compositions. He soon abandoned painting entirely and turned to production art. Rodchenko was one of the organizers of Inkhuk (Institute of Artistic Culture). From 1920 to 1930 he taught at the Moscow Vkhutemas (State Higher Arts and Technical Studios) and the Moscow Vkhutein (Higher Art and Technical Institute) as a professor of the department of woodworking and metalwork-ing; he developed special training programs for designers. As a theoretician, Rodchenko shared the contradictory goals of constructivism; he had been one of the founders of this movement in 1921. He subsequently supported LEF and actively collaborated on the journals LEF (1923–25) and Novyi LEF (1927–28). He supported the October group and was its member from 1928 to 1932.
Rodchenko’s practical art was much more fruitful and versatile. During the 1920’s his designs were applied to the newly emerging public facilities centers; his choice of materials and expressive devices were based on the principle of economy. He designed the workers’ club and its furnishings, which were exhibited at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1925. From 1923, Rodchenko worked a great deal in book and journal graphic art. In addition to the publications of LEF, he designed other journals, including Zhurnalist and SSSR na stroike. He was one of the first to utilize photomontage, which he did in V. V. Mayakovsky’s About This, published in 1923. Rodchenko designed 12 more of Mayakovsky’s books. Like Mayakovsky, Rodchenko was among the first masters of Soviet advertisement.
The distinguishing characteristics of Rodchenko’s graphic art were a clarity of concept and execution, vivid coloration, and an extreme laconism of images. The juxtaposition of lettering and images was also effective and creatively precise. Examples of his work are posters with texts by Mayakovsky and the posters for the motion pictures Cine Eye by Dziga Vertov (1924) and Battleship Potemkin by S. M. Eisenstein. During the 1920’s, Rodchenko frequently worked in the theater and motion pictures; he designed, for example, the furniture and costumes for the production of Mayakovsky’s play The Bedbug at the V. E. Meierkhol’d Theater in Moscow in 1929.
During the 1930’s, Rodchenko worked primarily as a photographer and book designer. His numerous photographic works combine an austere documentary quality and a tactile depiction with a compositional expressiveness and chiaroscuro resolution. Many of his works were done in collaboration with his wife, V. F. Stepanova (1894–1958). During the 1940’s and 1950’s, Rodchenko was a news photographer and an artist for the Museum of the Revolution of the USSR and the House of Technology in Moscow.
REFERENCESAbramova, A. “A. M. Rodchenko.” Iskusstvo, 1966, no. 11.
Volkov-Lannit, L. Aleksandr Rodchenko risuet, fotografiruet, sporit. [Moscow, 1968.]
R. O. ANTONOV