The work of Alexander Rodchenko is inseparable from the context of the Russian revolution in which it developed. Heir to the protest movements that emerged in Europe during the First World War, and in the lineage of the Constructivist work of Vladimir Tatlin, of whom he was one of the leading disciples, Rodchenko rejected the concept of the purity of art in favor of an art that served society. This rejection of the bourgeois values epitomized by easel painting led him to simplify the motifs in his paintings. This research was taken to its extreme in Black on Black, exhibited at the 10th State Exhibition in Moscow in 1919 in response to White on White by Kazimir Malevich, and the three monochrome paintings, Pure Red Color, Pure Blue Color, and Pure Yellow Color, shown in 1921 in 5 × 5 = 25, an exhibition that recapitulated the history of painting while biding it adieu: “Down with art, long live technology!” proclaimed the participating artists.
The following stage in the development of Rodchenko’s work was marked by the temporary abandonment of pictorial practice and work on utilitarian projects such as posters, furniture, industrial design, architecture, and stage designs. The Workers’ Club, shown in 1925 at the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris, marked a culmination in this respect. These activities, the principles of which Rodchenko also taught at INKhUK and VKhUTEMAS in Moscow, are connected with his interest in line as a photographer and typographer.
His Spatial Constructions form concentric networks of triangles, spheres, squares, and hexagons that, placed on a base or suspended from a ceiling by wire, draw volumes in space, implying the idea of emptiness and movement. With the rejection of the base—the historical referent of traditional sculpture—came the loss of the sense of top and bottom, right and left. Devoid of symbolism and subjectivity, all classical references dusted off, these abstract configurations underscored the dynamic and constructive properties of line and were presented in Rodchenko’s studio as the future tools of the artist- engineer, who posed alongside them in worker’s overalls.
- Cécile Godefroy From the book 'Suspension', by Matthieu Poirier, published by Olivier Malingue Ltd and Skira, Paris, 2018. Book available to purchase from the gallery for £35.
Moscow, ”2nd OBMOKHU Spring Exhibition, 1921.
Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, Landesmuseum für moderne Kunst, Photographie und Architektur, Berlin; Moscow, State Pushkin Museum, Berlin-Moskau/Moskau Berlin 1900-1950, 1995, n. III/39, p. 639, reproduced p. 247 (historical photograph).
Thessaloniki, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Costakis Collection, Construction: Tatlin and After, 2001, n. 71, p. 392, reproduced in colour p. 100.
Duisburg, Lehmbruck Museum, Alexander Rodtschenko und die Raumkonstruktion im 20. Jahrhundert, 2002, pp. 77, 78, 138, reproduced in colour p. 139, reproduction of first execution of the work p. 79.
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Vanguardias rusas, 2006, cat. n. 101, reproduced in colour p. 30.
Vienna, Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst/Gegenwartskunst, Alexander Rodtschenko - Raumkonstruktionen, 2005, p. 78, reproduced p. 15 (historical photograph).
Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, 16th Biennale of Sydney, 2008, installation views pp. 11, 20, 22.
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Rodchenko y Popova: Definiendo el Constructivismo, 2009, n. 80, p. 179, reproduced p. 71 (historical photograph).
London, Tate Modern; Thessaloniki, Greek State Museum of Art; Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism, 2009, p. 172.
Hamburg, Bucerius Kunst Forum, Rodtschenko: Eine neue Zeit, 2013, n. 47, reproduced p. 144 (historical photograph, another reconstruction by Alexander Lavrentiev exhibited).
Berlin, Deutsches Historisches Museum, 1917. Revolution. Russia and Europe, 2017, p. 295, reproduced p. 153.
London, Olivier Malingue, Suspension – A History of Abstract Hanging Sculpture 1918–2018, 1 October - 15 December 2018, Original work reproduced p. 167.
Alexander Rodchenko, 'A laboratory passage through the art of painting and constructive-spatial forms toward the industrial initiative of constructivism 1917 -1921. (Automonograph),' Moscow 1923, in Alexander Lavrentiev (ed.), "Alexander Rodchenko: Experiments for the Future: Diaries, Articles, Letters, Notes," Moscow 1996.
Alexander Rodchenko, 'What Rodchenko was the first to declare and develop,' 1922, added as attachment to the artist’s automonograph, published in Alexander Lavrentiev (ed.), "Alexander Rodchenko: Experiments for the Future: Diaries, Essays, Letters and other Writings," New York 2005.
Kino-phot, n. 2, 1922, reproduced p. 3; the title under the photograph reads: "The spatial object" (historical photograph);
Andrzej Turowski, W Kregu Konstruktywizmu, Warsaw, 1979, n. 30, p. 286, reproduced p. 7 (historical photograph).
Technical Aesthetics 3/1979, Moscow, 1979, n. 1b, p. 2, reproduced p. 2 (historical photograph).
John Milner, Russian Revolutionary Art, London, 1979, n. 48, pp. 41-42, reproduced p. 43 (historical photograph).
German Karginov, Rodchenko, London, 1979, n. 68, pp. 64, 85, 264, reproduced p. 84 (historical photograph).
Selim Khan-Magomedov, Pioniere der sowjetischen Architektur, Dresden, 1983, n. 107, reproduced p. 47 (historical photograph).
Christina Lodder, Russian Constructivism, New Haven/London, 1983, n. 1.30, pp. 24, 27, reproduced p. 26 (historical photograph).
Selim Khan-Magomedov, Rodchenko. The Complete Work, London, 1986, reproduced pp. 97, 100, sketches of the work illustrated p. 36 (historical photograph).
Exh. cat., Art into Life: Russian Constructivism 1914-1932, The Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, 1990, p. 55.
Avantgarde I 1900-1923: Russisch- sowjetische Architektur, Stuttgart, 1991, p. 94.
Selim Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Design,” Moscow, 1995, n. 125, p. 86, reproduced pp. 84, 86 (historical photograph).
Selim Khan-Magomedov, Architecture of the Soviet Avant-garde: Volume 1, Moscow, 1996, reproduced p. 119 (historical photograph).
Victor Margolin, The Struggle for Utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy 1917-1946, Chicago/London, 1997, p. 14, reproduced p. 88 (historical photograph).
Alexander Lavrentiev, The Constructivist Laboratory: Experiments in Graphic Design, Moscow, 2000, reproduced p. 151 (historical photograph).
Alexander Rodchenko, Spatial Constructions/Raumkonstruktionen (catalogue raisonné), Hatje Cantz/Galerie Gmurzynska, Ostfildern/Zürich, 2002, pp. 77-79, 138-139.
Alexander Lavrentiev, Heroes of Avant-Garde: Alexander Rodchenko, Moscow, 2007, reproduced p. 31 (historical photograph).
Jean-Claude Marcadé, L'avant-garde russe 1907-1927, Paris, 2007, p. 272.
Alexander Lavrentiev, Heroes of Avant-Garde: Alexander Rodchenko, Moscow, 2011, n. 31, reproduced pp. 7, 115, sketch for the work reproduced p. 113 (historical photograph).