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Alexander Rodchenko


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A leading avant‐garde designer of the Russian Revolutionary period, Rodchenko was widely known for his Constructivist work across a variety of creative fields including posters, packaging, photography, textiles, furniture, products, and stage sets. After studying at the School of Fine Arts in Kazan from 1911 to 1914, Rodchenko moved to Moscow, where he studied graphic design at the Stroganoff School of Applied Art. In 1915 he met fellow Russian Vladimir Tatlin, who had been involved with the Parisian avant‐garde, reinforcing his growing interest in Cubism and Futurism, trends that were far removed from the conservatism curriculum of the Strogonoff School. Amongst Rodchenko's first product designs were a series of metal lamps designed for the Café Pittoresk in Moscow in 1917, working alongside Tatlin and others who were also involved in other aspects of the Café's interior design. Much of Rodchenko's design work was devoted to promoting the revolutionary cause, including a kiosk in 1919 for the sale and distribution of newspapers and other political propaganda. He also designed a large number of posters promoting state enterprises between 1923 and 1925 in collaboration with the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. Throughout the 1920s he was a prolific graphic designer, working on political, commercial, and film posters, as chief designer and contributor to the journal LEF (1923–5) and its successor Novy LEF (1927–8)—both edited by Mayakovsky—as well as packaging and book covers. His use of photomontage, striking typographic layouts, and flat, coloured geometric elements resulted in many memorable designs. He also designed simple, functional geometric wooden furniture and shelving for the Workers' Club in the Soviet Pavilion at the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels. The philosophy that underpinned this display was in many ways a counterpart to the functional workers' clothing he had designed in 1920. Rodchenko was a member of Inhuk (the Institute of Artistic Culture) which had been established in 1920 by the painter Wassily Kandinsky. In the following year, with his wife Varvara Stepanova and others, he reorganized Inhuk to promote Productivism—the mass production of industrial and applied art (see Constructivism)—and wrote the Productivist Manifesto. He was also involved in design education, playing a significant role at the Vkhutemas (Higher State Artistic and Technical Workshops) in Moscow from 1920 to 1930. He also worked on costume and set design, including those for The Bed Bug by Mayakovsky (1929). During the 1930s he increasingly devoted his attention to photography and book and periodical design, often in conjunction with his wife. Their collaborations included ‘The White Sea Canal’ issue of the periodical USSR in Constructivism (1933), the book Film in the USSR (1936), and the photo‐album First Cavalry (1937).

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