Rodchenko, Aleksandr

Rodchenko, Aleksandr

. 1891–1956, Russian painter, sculptor, photographer, and designer, b. St. Petersburg. One of the most important and versatile avant-garde artists to emerge after the Russian Revolution, he was a leading adherent of constructivismconstructivism,
Russian art movement founded c.1913 by Vladimir Tatlin, related to the movement known as suprematism. After 1916 the brothers Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner gave new impetus to Tatlin's art of purely abstract (although politically intended) constructions.
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. Influenced by suprematismsuprematism,
Russian art movement founded (1913) by Casimir Malevich in Moscow, parallel to constructivism. Malevich drew Aleksandr Rodchenko and El Lissitzky to his revolutionary, nonobjective art.
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, he began to create abstract geometrical drawings and paintings beginning in the mid-1910s. His Black on Black (1918) was painted after his colleague Casimir MalevichMalevich, Casimir or Kasimir
, 1878–1935, Russian painter. Moving to Moscow in 1906, he became involved in avant-garde artistic circles.
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's celebrated White on White (1918). Particularly active artistically from 1917 to 1921, he worked with the constructivist Vladimir Tatlin to create abstract sculptures marked by pierced geometrical forms and the use of wood, metal, and cardboard. Rodchenko also turned his attention to photomontage, which led to his active work as a photographer. His striking, dramatic, and often stylized images of friends, family, and public life made him the foremost Soviet photographer of the 1920s. His later photographs were generally more overtly political. Rodchenko was also an outstanding designer of posters, books, and sets and costumes for theater and film.

Bibliography

See A. Rodchenko and V. Stepanova, The Future Is Our Only Goal (tr. 1991); D. Elliott, Rodchenko and the Arts of Revolutionary Russia (1979); A. Lavrentiev, Alexander Rodchenko, Photography, 1924–1954 (1996); V. Margolin, The Struggle for Utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitsky, Moholy-Nagy, 1917–1946 (1997); M. Dabrowski, Alexander Rodchenko: Russian Revolutionary Modernist (1998) and Alexander Rodchenko: Painting, Drawing, Collage, Design, Photography (2002); G. Gmurzynnska, Alexander Rodchenko: Spatial Constructions: Catalogue Raisonné of Sculptures (2002).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.

REFERENCES

Abramova, A. “A. M. Rodchenko.” Iskusstvo, 1966, no. 11.
Volkov-Lannit, L. Aleksandr Rodchenko risuet, fotografiruet, sporit. [Moscow, 1968.]

R. O. ANTONOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.