Art for the masses

The Russian Revolution gave birth to many movements, with Constructivism one of the most active forces to emerge. Rarely is an artistic movement so closely linked to socio-political circumstance, and in a new exhibition Tate Modern explores two of its main protagonists: Alexander Rodchenko and Lyubov Popova. Curator Margarita Tupitsyn points out that Modernist exhibitions rarely present women on a level with their male counterparts. ‘It is important to show how similar their work is,’ she says. ‘Rodchenko and Popova are amazingly similar in their beliefs and styles.’ The exhibition starts in 1917 and shows the artists’ march in parallel, from beginnings in abstract art, to openly rejecting painting and moving on to design. Through textiles, graphics, packaging and architectural design, as well as cultural projects for theatre and cinema, Popova and Rodchenko implemented their rejection of ‘art for art’s sake’ and their belief in art as a practice directed towards social objectives. ‘They didn’t think of art as an isolated occupation,’ explains Tupitsyn. ‘Their only function was to serve the masses; they had the naive belief that they could have this direct contact with the public.’ Ending with Rodchenko’s construction of the Workers’ Club for the Paris International Arts and Crafts exhibition in 1925, the exhibits showcase the graphic economy of Constructivism and the artists’ attempt to enter mass production in work that has echoed through design ever since.

Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism runs until 17 May, Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1

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