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Liubov Popova, Aleksandr Rodchenko
Tate Modern
Bankside, London SE1 9TG, United Kingdom
February 12, 2009 - May 17, 2009

Rodchenko and Popova defining constructivism
by Stéphanie Bliard


Constructivism is deconstucted at the Tate Modern until 17 May.

This major movement emerging in Russia after the russian revolution has questionned deeply and under several perspectives art and its application in everyday life.

At the Tate, works and ideas of two major figures of the constructivism are shown. The photographer, film expert, advertiser, artist, Alexander Rodchenko and the female painter-theatre maker and textile and graphic designer Liubov popova were equally explosing the possibilities of constructivism in order to create a new world.

The exhibition is divided in twelve rooms which each one is devoted to a specific branch of the russian movement.


Room 1 : Paintings 1917-1919

Focusing on rearching "the dead weight of the real world", Rodchenko worked on the faktura; the physical qualities of the painting. While Popova was already looking beyond painting into architecture and three-dimensional structures.

Room 2: Graphic works 1917-1919

Rodchenko and Popova were starting to think with this selection of works on paper of new roles for art. Popova was making abstract-collages and was looking at ways of distributing her work more widely. Rodchenko was working on concrete examples as aircraft, lamps to adapt constructivism in day to day life.

Room 3: Paintings 1919-1921

Composition rejected in favor of constructivism. This is the main principle adopted by constructivism. Eliminating all decoration to reach a pure method developped in close relation with materials. They were going beyond the canvas, Rodechenko with his "lives" and popova with her geometric forms made out of cardboard.


Room 4: Graphic works 1919-1921

Continuing their exploration of the line and how elements should be organised on canvas or page, Rodchenko and Popova were developping their formal questions in order to lay to a theoretical ground for future approach.

Room 5: Kandinsky

Kandisnky has been an important figure for the artists of Constructivism. However he still referred back to figurative elements while Rodchenko and Popova were turning their work in more abstraction.


Constructivists were considering architecture as an intermediary between aethetics everyday life. However their work were so ambitious that some of them couldn't be applied to the reality.

Room 6: Sculpture: Objetcs in space

Rodchenko was focusing on liberating his objects from the floor as well as from the wall leading to 3D form. For Popova this research also lead to 3D and theatre work.

Room 7: 5 x 5= 25 paintings

A farewell party to painting 5 x5 = 25 paintings was held in Moscow in September 1921 and illustrated the painting as a single physical object with raw colour as only component.

Room 8: 5 x 5 = 25 works on paper

The second part with works on paper of 5 x 5 = 25 was hosted in october 1921 and was intended to show the importance of art in the real world.

Room 9: Advertising and graphic design

In 1921 The New economy Policy took place and restricted the freedom of private enterprise. Rodchenko was designing posters or packaging in order to help state-run industries who now faced more competition with private sector. Photo montage became an usual technique used in adertising.

Alongside with the new everyday life campain, Rodchenko and Popova were doing projects illustrating the russian history.

Room 10: Textiles and costumes

In 1923 Popova created new textiles after being invited by the first State Cotton-Printing Factory and it gained a real popular audience without changing the initial ideas.


In 1921 after being elected as a teacher at the State Theatre workshop, Popova applied the Constructivist principles to stage and costum design, while Rodchenko collaborated on a play.


In the early 20's new cinemas opened and Rodchenko was working with D. Vertov who was proning the philosophy "art into life" claimed by the Constructivists.

Room 11: The female journalist

Rodchenko also designed sets and helped to select camera angles for the movie of Lev Kulechovs The Female Journalist, allowing him to present to masses his ideas about urban living and interior design. However this dream coudn't leave the theatre and cinematic sets.

Room 12: Worker's club

In 1925 international Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industry in Paris was taken by the Soviets as an opportunity to promote their culture achievements.

However by the 1930's the impact of constructivism started of losing ground and Rodchenko and his fellows were becoming marginalised. Social realism became the new russian movement.

Posted by Stéphanie Bliard on 4/14/09 | tags: figurative abstract conceptual performance

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