including vintage gelatin silver photographs, photocollages, photomontages, and samples of publications designed by Rodchenko in the late 1920s and 1930s. Much of this material, which has been drawn together from public and private collections, including that of Rodchenko's family, is being shown together in this exhibition for the first time. Alexander Rodchenko: Modern Photography, Photomontage, and Film will open at the BAM/PFA on August 14 and remain on view through October 13, 2002.
Alexander Rodchenko's (1891–1956) experimentation with photography represents one of the most important and innovative efforts in establishing early twentieth-century modernism. Beginning in the October Revolution in 1917, Rodchenko sought to create a radical artistic movement equivalent to the social and political revolution that was occurring around him. His belief was that the new ideologies ushered in by the Soviet Republic required a new art that could be judged by its usefulness and practical application to all spheres of life. Although he originally trained as a painter, by 1923 Rodchenko had abandoned easel painting and was starting to work instead in the relatively new medium of photography and photomontage. Rodchenko embraced the findings of European modernism, including the graphic language of propaganda and advertising. He introduced radical elements into design and photography, including extreme angles, diagonals, energetic exclamation points, and dramatic layouts that were a significant departure from established academic styles. Many of these innovations are still used by graphic artists today, a testament to the impact and dynamism of Rodchenko's vision, and non-traditional approach to his medium.
In the 1930s Rodchenko began to photograph the "revolutionary optimism" embodied by the first Five-Year-Plan set down by the Communist authorities. Rodchenko continued to prove himself an innovator, in this instance by setting new boundaries for the use of photography as a means of communicating ideals and ideology. At this time many argue that Rodchenko was also increasingly capitulating to Communist Party ideology. His work includes propaganda photographs of the White Sea Canal project, a major construction project linking the White Sea with the Baltic Sea, which relied exclusively on forced labor and resulted in tens of thousands of deaths before it was completed in 1933. This aspect of Rodchenko's work has led to comparisons with his German contemporary Leni Riefenstahl, whose idealized images of the Nazis has detracted from appreciations of the brilliant visual qualities and innovations she brought to her work.
Although he was in part responsible for the importance placed in the Russian avant garde movement in the late 1920s, by the 1930s Rodchenko had begun to fall out of favor with political leadership, and he lived in obscurity until his death in 1956. His avant-garde experiments and theory, however, became central to Modernist discourse, and his work ranks alongside that of László Maholy-Nagy, Pierre Dubreuil, Man Ray, El Lissitzky, and Edward Weston in its importance and influence.
Alexander Rodchenko: Photography, Photomontage, and Film was curated by Steve Yates, who teaches at the Visual Arts Center of the Santa Fe Community College, and is Associate Adjunct Professor at the Art and Art History Departments of the University of New Mexico. After its presentation at BAM/PFA the exhibition will travel to the University Art Museum at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Please note: a selection of images from this exhibition is available as electronic files or slides. Please contact Rod Macneil at (510) 643-6494 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, August 22, 12:15 p.m.
Was Rodchenko a martyr? Was he a collaborator? Or is there a third way to think about the artist/power relationship? Associate Curator Alla Efimova, who has taught and published widely on twentieth-century Russian and Soviet art, will consider these questions in a walkthrough of the exhibition.
Thursday, September 12 - 7:00 p.m.
Throughout the 1980s poet Lyn Hejinian, who is a professor in UC Berkeley's English Department, traveled and lectured extensively in the former Soviet Union. She will read from contemporary Russian writing in translation as well as from her own work based on her Soviet-era experience.
Panel: "Rodchenko Redux"
"Rodchenko and Film, "Anne Nesbet (Assistant Professor, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, UC Berkeley)
"Modernism's Willing Executioner: Rodchenko and the NKVD," Erika Wolf (Visiting Professor, Program in Visual and Cultural Studies, University of Rochester)
"Rodchenko, Media, Storage," Sven Spieker (Associate Professor, Department of Germanic, Slavic, and Semitic Languages, UC Santa Barbara)
Moderator: Alla Efimova, Associate Curator, UC Berkeley Art Museum
Sunday, September 29 - 3:00 - 5:30 p.m.
The panel proposes some exciting alternative approaches to understanding Rodchenko and the implications of his multi-faceted creativity, especially for film and politics.
Graduate students from UC Berkeley's departments of History, Slavic Languages and Literature, and History of Art will offer exhibition tours on selected Thursdays at 12:15 and 5:30 p.m. and selected Sundays at 2 p.m. throughout the exhibition. Call (510) 642-0808 for more information.
Sign-language interpreted tour
Saturday, October 5 - 1:30 p.m.
The Pacific Film Archive will present the following programs in conjunction with this exhibition:
"Aelita," directed by Yakov A. Protazanov, USSR, 1924, with musical accompaniment by Filmharmonia,
Saturday, September 21 - 7:30 p.m.
"Kino-Eye (Kino Glaz)," directed by Dziga Vertov, 1924, with live piano accompaniment by Neil Brand, Sunday, September 8, 4:30 p.m.; and on Sunday, September 22 - 5:30 p.m., with live piano accompaniment by Joel Adlen.
Both films will be screened at the Pacific Film Archive Theater, 2575 Bancroft Way at Bowditch. For further information please call (510) 642-1412.