ARTYFACTS: Rodchenko and Popova - Tate Modern

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rodchenko and Popova - Tate Modern

I visited Russia twice when it was the Soviet Union and saw the deep and saturated effect Constructivist Art had on everything from political posters to book covers. There was always something a little over-earnest about it all. However, I was keen to see if was as shallow as I had at first thought - maybe not.

The first few rooms have those well known geometric shapes and line drawings. Intent on stripping out individuality, representation, composition, colour, curves and as the show proceeds, even painting. Eventually realising that the rejection of representation ultimately leads to the rejection of painting, they turned to sculpture and purposeful graphics. Here things spring a little into life, but the endless parade of big fonts, red and black slogans and poses makes one long for something really revolutionary. Now that the paintings and prints have faded into the faded, brownish colour of car-boot sale prints, it all looks a bit dated - and it is.
The problem with Constructivism is that it's not constructive, it's the art of rejection, a humourless path towards sterility, a bit like it's political master - communism. There's an interesting image of Rodchenko posing like the very narcissistic artist he was hoping to eradicate.

I finally sat down in a chair designed by the movement - it was uncomfortable, something no one would have bought, like constructivism itself.


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