ARTS & CULTURE

The Evocative Photos Of Aleksandr Rodchenko, Who Changed The Way We See Photography

03/27/2015 10:29 am ET | Updated Mar 27, 2015

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Before Stalin-era Soviet restrictions on artistic expression turned Aleksandr Rodchenko's work into a paean to Communism, the legendary Russian artist revolutionized photography. "We have a duty to experiment" was his motto, turning away from a century of "introspective" photography.

With his Leica in hand, Rodchenko spent the 1920s creating daring experiments with perspective; he photographed with an outward focus and unusual points of view, framing the images with bold, oblique cuts. He lived through radical changes in his home country and ended up sparking radical change in his chosen art form.

Born in St. Petersburg in 1891, Rodchenko saw the end of the Tsarist empire, greeted the coming of Lenin, and witnessed the Stalinist purges. As the son of a turbulent generation, he could not be anything but turbulent himself. While his initial work during the 1910s and 1920s was part of the thriving Russian artistic avant-garde, Rodchenko was one of many artists whose instincts were curbed by strict guidelines for artistic expression under the Soviet regime. His later work, from the 1930s until his death in 1956, focused on sporting events, parades and other traditional subjects for propaganda.

Through June 28, the Palazzo Manin Codroipo in northern Italy is presenting one hundred works from the artist showcasing his subjects, techniques, and inventions. The collection covers his work for magazines, cinema and advertising, as well as an evocative self-caricature from 1922 and many beautiful compositions created with Varvara Stepanova, his partner and companion.

Rodchenko’s early work shows a gifted and daring visual artist, infusing seemingly mundane tableaux with new life. This exhibition strips away the dictates of Socialist Realism to reveal the vivid, thoughtful, unforgettable images for which Rodchenko is known.

  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Alexander Rodchenko Lilia Brik. Portrait for the poster “Knigi.” 1924 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    “Kinoglaz.” Sketch of a poster for Dziga Vertov’s documentary film. 1924 Gelatin silver print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Morning Gymnastics on the Roof of a Students’ Hostel in Lefortovo. 1932 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Pioneer-Trumpet Player. 1930 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Shukhov Tower. 1929 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Portrait of Mother. 1924 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Varvara Stepanova. 1928 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Radio listener. 1929 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Stairs, 1930 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Mosselprom Building, 1926 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Laying Asphalt, Leningrad Highway, 1929 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Boats, 1926 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Bus, 1932 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Lunch, Mechanized Canteen. 1932 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
  • © A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive ©Moscow House of Photography Museum
    Girl with a Leica, 1934 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Multimedia Art Museum Moscow

This post was originally published on HuffPost Italy and was translated into English.

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