Monday, 4 May 2009

Russian Constructivism at the Tate Modern

We had a three-day weekend here in England, so we decided to give our seriously underused Tate membership cards a little exercise and hit up the Russian Constructivism exhibit at the Tate Modern.  I wasn't sure what to expect and honestly, we picked it mostly because it was sort of crappy weather outside, and we were looking for an activity.  From these humble beginnings, the exhibition turned out to be fabulous (and seriously better than the Rothko exhibit we went to last year.)

The exhibition focuses on the art of Rodchenko and the lesser known Popova (primarily active in the 1920s and 1930s).  Other artists influenced by constructivism that may be somewhat more familiar include Hungarian-born contemporary Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.  It comprises 11 rooms, and starts with their paintings (many of which are bright canvases with interesting explorations of depth, planes of space, and flattening of appearance).  I especially liked a few paintings by Rodchenko that experimented with the intersection of several circles and different textures of paint.  

By far, the most interesting rooms focused on the more graphical arts of this time period.  These exhibitions included their art used for posters, book covers, and other "popular" arts.  I think the whole aesthetic of constructivism, which plays with lines, geometry and color blocking, really lends itself to these works on paper.  I was also really interested in the way the Russian alphabet and words in general effect the appearance of the graphics and the art.

I knew almost nothing about Rodchenko, and even less about Popova, before going into this exhibit.  I'm sure that I would have had a deeper appreciation of this exhibit if I knew more about early 20th Century Russian history and politics, but my friend Anne did try her hardest to fill me in and compensate for my abysmal knowledge.  Even for ignoramuses like me, these paintings and works on paper were fascinating, and I highly recommend a visit before the exhibition closes in the middle of May!

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