biography

 
 


The son of an assistant set designer, Alexander Mikhailovich Rodchenko was born in St Petersburg on December 5th (O.S. November 23rd) 1891.
From 1911 to 1914 Rodchenko attended the Kazan art school, where he met the woman that was to become his wife, Varvara Feodorovna Stepanova. In 1916 he moved to Moscow where he began exhibiting his paintings - his debut being at the show entitled Magazin. In 1917 he was among those who launched the Artists and Painters Union and was secretary of the Federation of the Left. From 1918 to 1922 he worked at the figurative arts section of the Education Commissariat, as director of the museums bureau. From 1920 to 1924 he was a member of the Artistic Culture Institute besides taking part in all the major exhibitions of avant-garde art and in a number of painting and architecture competitions.
Rodchenko laid down his artistic credo in the volumes Vsë - opyty (All is Experiment) and Linija (Line), both from 1920, in which he perceives his work as a vast experiment where each single piece is a particle of pictorial, graphic or spatial experimentation. In 1921 he concluded his laboratory research, switching to serial and factory-produced art. From 1920 he taught at the Arts Faculty and from 1922 to 1930 at the metalworking department of the VKhUTEMAS-VKhUTEIN Higher Technical-Artistic Studios.
Considered among the founders of Constructivism in publishing, advertising and design, from 1923 Rodchenko worked as a graphic designer in publishing, introducing photomontage to books, magazines and manifestoes. Together with Mayakovsky he designed around one hundred advertising leaflets, billboards and shop signs. After entering the LEF (Arts Front of the Left) Rodchenko began working for the periodical Novy LEF. In 1925 he travelled to Paris to oversee the Soviet section of the International Decorative Arts and Artistic Production Expo, for which he completed his Worker Club project.
From 1924 Rodchenko devoted himself to photography, producing portraits of his contemporaries and experimenting with unusual angles. In 1926 he published his first experimental shots on the periodical Sovetskoe kino (Soviet Cinema), while on Novy LEF his Itineraries of Contemporary Photography upheld the idea of a dynamic outlook on the world through the modernity of his shots of objects from above and below. He took part in the Ten Years of Soviet Photography Exhibition held in Moscow in 1928 and in the Masters of Russian Photography show, also held in Moscow in 1935. In the late 1920s and early 1930s Rodchenko worked as a reporter for the daily Vechernyaya Moskva (Moscow Evening) and for the periodicals 30 dney (Thirty Days), Dayosh! (Give), Pioner (Pioneer), Ogonek (Little Fire) and Radioslušatel' (Radio Listener). Simultaneously he worked for cinema (Moscow and October in 1927, The Journalist in 1927-8, The Doll With Millions and Albidum in 1928) and for the theatre (on the production of Inge and The Bed Bug in 1929). In 1930 he was among the founders and organisers of the photography section of the Oktyabr (October) association.
From 1932 Rodchenko worked as a reporter from Moscow for the Isogiz publishing house. In 1933 he began working as a graphic artist for the periodical SSSR na stroyke (The USSR in Construction) and supervised (along with his wife, Varvara Stepanova) the layout for the photographic albums The Tenth Anniversary of Uzbekistan, The First Cavalry Unit, The Red Army, The Soviet Air Force and others. He continued to paint throughout the Thirties and Forties. He served as a jury member and designer for a variety of photography exhibitions, and from 1932 was a member of MOSCh, the Moscow Artists Union.
In 1941-42 Rodchenko and his entire family were evacuated to the Urals (Očer, Perm'). In 1944 he was appointed section supervisor for the House of Technique and concentrated on graphic design. In the late 1940s he and his wife oversaw the layout of the photographic albums The Cinematographic Art of the Homeland, Kazakhstan, Moscow, The Moscow Underground, The Ukraine and Russia Together for Three Centuries. In 1952 Rodchenko was expelled from the MOSCh, only to be rehabilitated in 1955.

Aleksander Lavrentiev

 


     
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