Essay: Alexander Rodchenko’ s “Pro eto”

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Alexander Rodchenko was one of the most resourceful artists in the Russia in the early nineteen twenties and thirties. Between 1910 and 1914, he studied under Nikolai Feshin and Georgia Medvedev at the Arts College of Kagan. One of the illustrious artistic genius of the twentieth century, Rodchenko carried on pioneering work in the disciplines of painting, sculpture, collage, photography and design that also included book and magazine covers, advertising and posters, among others. He achieved a worldwide repute in the early 1920s, but later had some conflict with the bureaucracy during Stalin’s regime and its followers later in the decade and lived the last 20 years of his life in obscurity and isolation. As in an issue of Current John DeFore observes:

While Rodchenko’s photography is striking, it’s difficult to appreciate the man’s career fully without seeing his poster work. It’s true that the show’s name proclaims a focus on photography and film, but the artist’s work in both areas is so tied to his design that it seems natural to include more of the latter. (DeFore 14)

Among Rodchenko’s most amazing photocollages are the cover and illustrations that he made in early 1923 for Mayakovsky’s poem About This or, simply, It “Pro eto” 1923. The photomontage Relates to Mayakovsky’s disturbed state of mind as he endured a parting from his lover Lili Brik, the poem associates the power of their love with their revolutionary enthusiasm, opposing both to the spirit of tedious customs and materialism.

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