Alexander Rodchenko

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The best thing to come out of Russia after the revolution was none other than maverick artist Alexander Rodchenko. He is regarded by many as one of the most versatile Constructivist artists of all times. Rodchenko worked tirelessly to embed photography into the art world, his life was marred by a love and hate affair with the term photography as well as his native Russian state. Always at odds with each other, today Russians refer to Rodchenko’s name with the utmost respect and admiration. For Rodchenko photography represented an altogether different vision of the world, a visible reality which can be seen from various odd angles and different dimensions. Prior to embarking on photography full time, Rodchenko had already established himself as a good painter and graphic designer.

Alexander Mikhailovich Rodchenko was born in 1891 in St Petersburg, Russia into a working class family. It wasn’t until the age of 33 when Rodchenko actually picked up the camera first and started taking pictures from every odd angle imaginable. Rodchenko was a strong supporter of Russian Constructivism, writing and promoting the ideology both in writing and through his work. His photographs are filled with his signature sharp lines, obscure angles, and titled views. His photographs coupled with his texts form the basis of his undeniable energy as an artist which can be seen clearly through his work even today. For Rodchenko any angle was achievable via photography. He realized that photography transcended social norms and barriers – much of Russia during those times was illiterate but through photography people would be able to comprehend the vision Rodchenko was trying to show them. Rodchenko wasn’t an artist who would take being told what do to so easily; if anything he was a rebel. This is why the situation in between the Russian state and him became so tense when he photographs stuck to the truth rather than representing another vision of Russia which the state wanted. There was also the publication of graphic illustrations like the ‘USSR in Construction’ which further added fuel to the fire. Since Rodchenko couldn’t be controlled the authorities expelled him from the October artists group – which he had founded. Today Rodchenko is the main inspiration behind most graphic designers of the 20th century, for them he was a master artist way ahead of his times. Despite hanging up photography in the 1950’s – since it had landed him in enough trouble already – Rodchenko thoroughly believe that it was the only medium through which contemporary life could be properly shown as it was. He had long declared beforehand that painting was a dying medium.

With Rodchenko’s work it can be seen it was brimming with modernity, objectivity and was free of the social norms associated with most other artist’s works. Looking back now, Rodchenko’s work often graces galleries and exhibitions worldwide and its difficult to understand how this extraordinary artist was able to touch upon so many facets of the art world from painting to sculpting to being an illustrator. If anything today photography is considered to be a true form of art and Rodchenko is certainly one of his masters.

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