Alexander Rodchenko – Always in the avant-garde

Spatial construction no 12, 1920 by Alexander Rodchenko
Spatial Construction no. 12, c.1920 – Image @Moma

Abstract art is one of my favourite movements in modern art.

There’s something about nonrepresentational works that immediately catch my eyes and attention. 

It’s fascinating to see how artists work on the expression of feelings and other questions without depicting objects and away from personification.


Constructivist years

The list of artists and moments in abstraction that I want to share here is quite big, but I’ll start with Russian avant-garde painter, sculptor, designer and photographer Alexander Rodchenko (1891–1956) because I love his work!

Immersed in the changes of the modern world and new ways of thinking about art, he was part of the first generation of abstract artists in Russia influenced by Wassily Kandinsky’s abstractions and Kasimir Malevich and El Lissitzky’s Suprematism.

Alongside Vladimir Tatlin and his wife Varvara Stepanova, they started Constructivism.

Rodchenko wanted to get rid of all forms of representation in favour of simple, geometric shapes and colours that he believed were more suited to the late 1910s. 

White circle, 1918 and Objectless composition no 65, 1918 by Alexander Rodchenko
White circle, 1918 / Objectless composition no.65 (Still life), 1918 – Images @Wiki Art (Public Domain)

Designing the ‘modern’ USSR

A supporter of the 1917 Russian Revolution, he believed that art could be an important instrument of transformation in society

He taught classes, designed objects and clothing in collaboration with other artists at the Higher Technical-Artistic Studios – VKhUTEMAS/VKhUTEIN.

He has a vast production of print: ads, packaging, book covers and layouts.  His sharp collage and photomontage style became very popular and is still found today, as I bet you can recognize these prints:

"Pro Eto", 1923 and Books (Please)!, 1924 by Alexander Rodchenko
Book cover “Pro Eto” by Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1923 / Poster “Books (Please)! In all branches of knowledge”, 1924 Images @Wiki Art (Public Domain) / Frye Art Museum

The other angle

Later in his career, Rodchenko favoured photography to other mediums and explored the numerous possibilities of composition with unexpected angles and subjects.

Dive, 1934, Girl with a Leica, 1932 and Pioneer with a bugle by Alexander Rodchenko
Dive, 1934 / Girl with a Leica, 1932-33 / Pioneer with a Bugle, 1930 – Images@Moma

Although his work was embraced and celebrated by the Bolcheviques after the Revolution, as the regime became more authoritarian, tightening control over artistic associations and schools, and as ‘Socialist Realism’ was appointed the new Soviet art, he and his work were considered treason by the state

Little is known of his late years.


What part of Alexander Rodchenko’s work is your favourite?

Let me know in the comments or on Social Media!

If you liked this post, share with someone you think will enjoy as much as you! 🙂

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