Rodchenko & Popova: Defining Constructivism – Tate Modern, 18 April 2009

Rodchenko & Popova: Defining Constructivism poster 

It’s worth taking your time with this one! I was there for almost three hours and I’m contemplating a return visit.

The exhibition follows two artists, Rodchenko and Popova, from 1917 to roughly 1925. I was fascinated by the imagination and innovative ideas these two had; so unlike much of the stuff which was happening over here at the time.

An almost overwhelming volume of work is on display, from the dynamic energy of the early paintings to the strident purposefulness of their later print and textile work, following their denouncement of canvas and easel

Embracing the Russian Revolution, Rodchenko, Popova and a few other artists redefined art. Constructivism “aimed to transform the lives of an entire population” (source: Tate Modern). There is nothing they did not touch, from graphic works, advertising, architecture to theatre, political propaganda and textiles. Looking at ways they “could contribute to everyday life” (source: Tate Modern). They even designed a ‘Workers Club’, a place where workers could relax, read books and play chess (activities traditionally reserved for the middle and upper classes).

 

Turning their back on art and the meaning of art as we still knew it here at the time, “Constructivists rejected all ideas of illusory representation” (source: Tate Modern).

 

‘Sculpture: Objects in Space’ in room 6 and the short film in room 11 provide welcome breaks from the printed word and other visual pieces on the walls.

 

This is one for the mind. Over a week after I visited the exhibition I’m still thinking about what I saw and read. How artists can redefine art to serve a cause; how a political concept can so fully be embodied by art.

 

It’s on until 17 May, Tate Modern. Admission fee.

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