Icons and Bolsheviks

Monday, 22 January 2018, 4:00pm - 6:00pm, IWM library

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In 1923 – 1924 photomontage became the main medium of Russian constructivism. It was hailed as a new revolutionary method destined to replace painting, which had come to be seen as antiquated. In reality, however artists such as Alexander Rodchenko, Gustav Klutsis, and Sergei Senkin employed archaic compositional structures in assembling elements of photographic images. Not only did photomontage become the main device used by constructivist innovators in the creation of new political icons, but it also played the role of a Trojan horse: artists, like Rodchenko, who were proud that they had killed painting as such not only returned its imagery into circulation but also created numerous iconographic versions of depictions of Lenin that were later adopted by socialist realism. Thus a medium which initially focused on the fragmentation of the image gradually developed into an assembly line for the production of virtual reality. Artists who started their careers as innovators and aesthetic rebels transformed into obedient servants of the Soviet propaganda machine.

Konstantin Akinsha is an art historian, journalist and curator; he is the Founding Director and Chair of the Russian Avant-garde Research Project, UK; In January 2018, he is a Ukraine in European Dialogue Guest at the IWM.

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