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these developments. By casting a look at our past as beings who have mastered technology, we might get some insights on which way to take in the immediate future. RODCHENKO: THE COMPLETE WORK by S.O.Khan-Magomedov. M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, MA, U.S.A., 1987. 304 pp., illus. Trade, $50.00. ISBN: 0 262111160. Reviewed by John Bowlt, Dept. of Slavic Languages, The University of Texas at Austin, Box 7217, Austin, TX 787137217 , U.S.A. Rodchenko: The Complete Work by the prominent Soviet art historian Selim Omarovich Khan-Magomedov is the most comprehensive description of Rodchenko’s art to date and probably will remain so for many years. Both documentarily and photographically it supersedes German Karginov’s pioneering monograph published by Corvina, Budapest, in 1975and adds a great dealto the various publications and exhibitions dealing with Rodchenko’s work that have appeared over the last 5 years or so. Alexander Mikhailovich Rodchenko (1891-1956) was a prime mover of the Russian avant-garde, that constellation of artistsandwriters-including Vladimir Maiakovsky, Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin-that transformed the development of Russian culture between ca. 1905and ca. 1925.This major study of Rodchenkois, therefore, also a discussion of the radical esthetic ideas and movements of that time such as Suprematism and Constructivism, inasmuch as Rodchenko was associated directly with them. The editor, Vieri Quilici, an Italian architect, emphasizes this artistic context in his introductory remarks. It should be stated immediately that, if the reader is seeking eccentric arguments and provocative conclusions, this book will not satisfy. But if, on the other hand, the reader is interested in factual accuracy,detailed biographical data, and the exact chronology of Rodchenko’s career, then this book is a sine qua non. Khan-Magomedov’s scholarship is, indeed, distinguished by an extraordinary knowledge of the dates and compositions of the exhibitions, manifestoes, teaching curricula, and debates relating to the avant-garde, and the information presented here will go a long way towards undermining the false mythologies that surround the modern movement in Russia. Access to the Rodchenko family archive in Moscow and to many other private archives (which, unfortunately, the author does not always identify) has allowed the author to answer many questions about Rodchenko’s life and work. Even so, this is not a ‘complete work’, and the title of the original Italian edition of this book (by Idea Books, Milan, 1986),Rodzhenko. La rivoluzione del design totale,was less pretentious and more appropriate. After a brief examination of Rodchenko ’s early interest in Symbolism, especially in the painting of Mikhail Vrubel, Khan-Magomedov concentrates on the move towards geometric abstraction around 1915. In referring to the influence of both Malevichand Tatlin on young Moscow and Petrograd artists of that time, Khan-Magomedov impliesthat Rodchenko’sownconclusionssynthesized the two different impulses-towards abstract painting (Malevich’s Suprematism ) and towards assemblages of real materials in real space (Tatlin’s reliefs). The presence of this double stimulus, towards the painted surface on the one hand, and towards volumetrical construction on the other, impelled Rodchenko to create his remarkable abstract paintings in the late 1910s (culminating in his three monochromes of red, yellow and blue in 1921)and his freestanding abstract constructions of 1918-21,someofwhich wereshownatthe first exhibition of OBMOKhU (Societyof Young Artists) in Moscow in 1919. It might be argued, of course, that, at this point, Rodchenko was an epigone who evolved and elaborated the ideas of his mentors without necessarilyinventing his own distinctive visual system. But, as Khan-Magomedov makes clear, the sheer diversity of Rodchenko’s production, his constant readiness to experiment with different disciplines and his complete loyalty to the establishment and development of a new, revolutionary art should override any misgivingswe might have about genuine originality. A historian of architecture and design, Khan-Magomedov givesparticular attention to Rodchenko’s activities at VKhUTEMAS (Higher State Art-Technical Studios), the Moscow Bauhaus of the early 1920s. It was here that Rodchenko headed the Department of Wood and Metalwork, producing design prototypes that he hoped would be mass produced for the new Soviet society. Along with Liubov Popova, Alexander Vesnin and many others, Rodchenko elaborated a pedagogy of Constructivism , emphasizing the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 101-102
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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