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Definition: Rodchenko, Alexander Mikhailovich from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Russian avant-garde painter, designer, and photographer. The aim of his work, in all media, was to create a visual language that would reflect the new revolutionary times. His paintings were abstract works based on severe geometrical shapes; under the influence of Tatlin he made three-dimensional constructions of wood, cardboard, and metal. His photographs of everyday objects were presented in close-up, from strange angles or from high viewpoints, an approach similar to that of the Hungarian Laszlo Moholy-Nagy; they document the early years of the Soviet era.

Summary Article: Rodchenko, Alexander (1891–1956)
from The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Graphic Design and Designers

Artist, designer, photographer. Born in St Petersburg. From 1911 trained at the art school in Kazan, moving to Moscow in c. 1914. Along with Vladimir Tatlin and El lissitzky, he was a leading figure of Russian constructivism. In 1921 he abandoned ‘pure art’ in favour of a visual communication that would serve the needs of society: his pioneering constructivist typography, with its geometrical severity, heavy rules and bold, hand-drawn sans serifs, was inextricably linked with the politics of revolution. In the early 1920s his utilitarian graphics were supplemented by overtly political photomontage designs. He was active in many different areas, devising posters, book jackets, interiors, products, furniture and stage sets. In 1922 he designed animated film titles for Dziga Vertov's documentary newsreels, followed in 1923 by his art direction of Lef, a radical arts magazine edited by his friends Vladimir Mayakovsky and Osip Brik. His collaboration with Mayakovsky produced posters advertising state services such as education; he also designed a number of Mayakovsky's poetry anthologies in the late 1920s. Shortly after the establishment of the Moscow Vkhutemas (1919) — the most progressive art school in the world at that time — he took charge of the metalwork department. About 1924 he started to take photographs, a development consistent with his desire to achieve a new objectivity by technical means. His versatility is demonstrated by designs for a reading room in a Workers' Club, exhibited in the Soviet Pavilion at the 1925 Paris ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes’. After 1928, Stalin's five-year plan constrained the creative activities of artists and designers. From the 1930s onwards Rodchenko worked as a typographer and photo-journalist, contributing to magazines such as USSR in Construction. See also colour section

Thames & Hudson © 2012

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