VIENNA.- Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956) was a driving force in the Russian avant-garde and is considered one of the great innovators of photography in the first half of the 20th century. In 1924, already well-known as a painter, sculptor and graphic artist, he conquered traditional photography with the slogan Our duty is to experiment! Dynamic compositions, stark contrasts, unconventional angles and the use of photomontage are the defining characteristics of his photographic language.
Rodchenkos visual compositions and constructivist manifestos have been highly influential in the development of modern photography. With more than 200 photographs on display, the exhibition explores Rodchenko's dynamic vision and the extraordinary range of his work. Alongside renowned, iconic images like Portrait of the Artist's Mother (1924), Steps (1929) or Girl with a Leica (1934) WestLicht presents many rare vintage prints, which are complemented by a selection of Rodchenko's posters, publications and typographic works.
As a prominent figure of constructivism, Rodchenko significantly shaped the development of Russian art in the early years of the Revolution. He was also a catalyst of a photography movement, similar to the New Objectivity pioneered by Albert Renger-Patzsch in Germany and the Group f/64 in the USA. New, unexpected foreshortenings, unusual perspectives, bold light and shadow combinations reproduce fragments of the social reality that are as sharp and clear as possible (Catalogue for Film and Photo Exhibition, Stuttgart, 1929).
The development of this new reality involved a radical departure from traditional perspectives. As Rodchenko pointed out in an essay on Ways of Contemporary Photography, in 1928: "The modern city with its multi-storey buildings, plants, factories [...], all this [...] has changed the psychology of the traditional perception to a great extent. It seems as if only a camera is able to illustrate modern life. Central to Rodenchko's argumentation was the belief that the camera could act as an active eye of contemporaries, destroying the primacy of the normal view - the navel perspective - established by painting. For Rodchenko the camera lens was the pupil of the educated person in socialist society.
Just as the revolution created the new socialist man and swept away the old order, photography should overcome the outdated perception and allow a modern outlook. "Photography - the new, fast and real reflection of the world - should make it possible to map the world from all points of view [...]. In order to educate man to a new vision, everyday familiar objects must be shown to him with totally unexpected perspectives and in unexpected situations. New objects should be depicted from different sides in order to provide a complete impression of the object." According to Rodchenko's significant and much-quoted claim: "We must revolutionize our optical perception. We must remove the veil from our eyes."
Curated by Olga Sviblova, Director of the Moscow House of Photography Museum.