Alexander Rodchenko

"The photograph represents a new and rapid instrument for description of the world: given its possibilities, it ought to be trying to show the world from different points; it ought to be teaching us to look from all sides. But at this point "the psychology of the navel," with centuries of authoritarianism behind it, clashes with the modern photographer."

- Alexander Rodchenko, 1928

Alexander Rodchenko was a painter, sculptor, designer, theoretician, photomontagist and photographer. A founding member of the First Working Group of Constructivists, and the Professional Artists Union he would go on to play a central role in the redefinition of art in the early 20th USSR.

Rodchenko was born in a small apartment above a St-Petersburg theater where his father was employed in a variety of jobs. In the early 1900's his family moved to Kazan where he attended elementary school. Following graduation he took part in a 2 year apprenticeship in dentistry. In 1910 he decided to pursue his interest in the arts and enrolled in the Kazan School of Fine Arts. During his studies he attended a lecture and performance by Vasilii Kamenskii and Vladimir Mayakovsky on Russian Futurism. After this encounter his art, previously inspired by Japanese prints, Matisse, Gauguin and Aubrey Beardsley, took a dramatic shift. By 1915 Rodchenko was exhibiting his paintings alongside notable avant-garde artists Vladimir Tatlin and Kazimir Malevich.

1917 was a turbulent year for Russia, and a revolutionary one for Rodchenko. It was during this year that he was involved in the founding of the Professional Union of Artist Painters, and when he first tried his hand at industrial design. Heavily involved in the theoretical underpinnings of art he became involved with government culture departments. Later he would continue to work for the government producing propaganda, and product advertising. All the while collaborating with fellow artists to produce communist publications and maintaining his independent artistic practice, which by this time also included sculpture.

In 1923 he purchased his first camera to document his photocollage works. However by 1926 he made regular use of the medium of photography for art making. A believer in the experimental nature of art, the late 1920's and early 1930's found him at the center of controversy over the use of irregular angles in his photography. The radical tilts, dramatically foreshortened figures and vertiginous repetitions of architectural features in the foreground bring dynamism to otherwise static subjects. Extreme perspectival viewpoints, such as aerial and worm's-eye views were trademarks of Rodchenko's style Dynamo Soccer Club, Red Square.

Rodchenko eventually retreated from photography choosing to return to the easel in 1935 and taking on additional publication and design projects as they arose.