Petr Stepanovich Galadzhev (1900-1971)
Maquette for front cover of Dreams, c. 1925
Photocollage on cardstock with hand-drawn lettering
5 3/8 x 6 1/2 in. (13.7 x 16.5 cm)

Galadzhev was not only an artist and graphic designer, but also deeply involved in the film industry as a successful actor, stage designer, and art director for movie studios. This collage is an homage to Boris Francisson, a prominent photographer in the Soviet film industry, who worked with Dziga Vertov and others. It is most likely a maquette for a cover or illustration, to be published in a Soviet movie magazine (e.g. Kino Front or Kino Zhurnal A.R.K.). 

Petr Stepanovich Galadzhev (1900-1971)
Collage with girls, athletes, and clowns, c. 1925
Original collage and Indian ink on brown paper
12 7/10 x 8 7/10 in. (32.3 x 22.1 cm)

Konstantin Vialov (1900-1976)
Maquette for front cover of Buster Keaton, 1926
Photocollage
7 x 5 1/2 in. (17.8 x 14 cm)

Russian constructivist advertising booklet published by Kino-Pechat about American comic actor and director Buster Keaton on the occasion of the screening in Russia of his film Our Hospitality. The booklet includes an introduction by Russian theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold, who wrote that the movie was “the best American film comedy I have ever seen.” Keaton became one of the most popular American stars in the USSR after bootlegged foreign movies became available in the early 1920s.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait, Verra-t-on annonce? C’est possible…, 1932
Vintage gelatin-silver photocollage
Mounted on album page
From the personal album Lyake Zabiyake
9 x 7 in. (22.9 x 17.8 cm)

Alexander Zhitomirsky (1907-1993)
Erika, 1930s
Photocollage
7 1/8 x 7 1/8 in. (18.1 x 18.1 cm)

Alexander Zhitomirsky (1907-1993)
Bride, Grand Central Station, 1931 (recto)
Vintage double-sided gelatin-silver photocollage
Mounted on album page
6 ½ x 6 in. (16.5 x 15.2 cm) image
6 ½ x 9 ½ in. (16.5 x 24.1 cm) mount

Alexander Zhitomirsky (1907-1993)
Bride and Crowd, 1931 (recto)
Vintage double-sided gelatin-silver photocollage
Mounted on album page
5 ½ x 6 in. (14 x 15.2 cm) image
6 ½ x 9 ½ in. (16.4 x 24.1 cm) mount

Alexander Zhitormirsky (1907-1993)
Bride Hunting, c. 1931 (recto)
Vintage double-sided gelatin-silver photocollage
Mounted on album page
6 x 8 in. (15.2 x 20.3 cm) image
6 ½ x 9 ½ in. (16.4 x 24.1 cm) mount

Konstantin Vialov (1900-1976)
Maquette for front cover of periodical Kino Front I, 1925-26
Photocollage on cardstock with hand-drawn lettering
12 x 9 in. (30.5 x 22.9 cm)

Kino Front was the journal of the Association of Revolutionary Cinematography. Vialov, Klutsis, and other graphic artists of the period designed covers for the magazine, often using film stills in their compositions. 

Aleksei Ushin (1904-1942)
Maquette for the film Transport Ognya (Transport of Fire), 1930
Photocollage on cardstock with gouach illustration and hand painted lettering
Initialed "U" below bottom section of lettering
10 x 7 in. (25.4 x 17.8 cm)

The 1930 film Transport Ognya (Transport of Fire) takes place on the eve of the first Russian Revolution in 1905. The Workers’ Committee requests that a revolutionary, nicknamed Mole, deliver trucks loaded with weapons from a border town to the capital. Mole is assisted by two underground workers, Savva and Petrovich, the former of whom is caught by the police. The police send a provocateur who manages to find Mole’s trail, but the brave revolutionary soon escapes and successfully organizes the transport of the weapons. Directed by Aleksandr Ivanov, the film was compared favorably to Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin when it was released in the U.S.

Varvara Stepanova (1894-1958)
Bud Gotov (Be Ready), 1934
Vintage gelatin silver photomontage
Photographs by Aleksandr Rodchenko
Signed and titled by Stepanova in Cyrillic in pencil on verso
"Stepanova, Strana Stroiki (Construction of the Country), photomontage"
8 3/4 x 6 1/4 in. (22.2 x 15.9 cm)

 

Solomon Telingater (1903-1969)
The Red Army is Watching, c. 1931
Photocollage with gelatin silver print, India ink, and white gouache
11 1/3 x 8 1/5 in. (28.8 x 20.8 cm)

This is an original maquette for a Soviet propaganda poster or an illustration for USSR in Construction. The elaborate retouching indicates that the maquette was actually used for publication. The photograph itself was most likely taken by El Lissitzky for an issue of USSR in Construction.

Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956)
Political Football, 1930
Photomontage for the magazine Za Rubezhom (Abroad), No. 5
Vintage gelatin silver photomontage
7 x 4 3/4 in. (17.8 x 12.1 cm)

Za Rubezhom was a satirical magazine founded by Maxim Gorky and supported by Joseph Stalin. 1930 was the year of the first World Cup in Uruguay, and Rodchenko capitalizes on the huge popularity of football in this collage, which shows a fight not between opposing teams but between proletarian footballers and the London police.

Solomon Telingater (1903-1969)
Composition "5 in 4," c. 1928-1933
Photocollage and gouache
11 1/3 x 8 1/5 in. (28.8 x 20.8 cm)

The slogan “5 in 4” refers to the call to accomplish the five-year plan, the first of a series of nationwide centralized economic plans, in just four years.

Gustav Klutsis (1895-1938)
All-Union Spartakiada (Design for Postcard for Spartakiada), Moscow, 1928
Vintage gelatin silver print
6 5/16 x 4 1/8 in. (16 x 10.5 cm)

The postcard for which this was designed was one out of a series of nine, produced for the 1928 Spartakiada in Moscow. The Spartakiads were a series of international sports events organized by the Soviet Union in response to and in opposition to the Olympics. The All-Union Spartakiada in 1928 was so titled because it involved the participation of seventeen countries outside of the Soviet Union. The last Spartakiad was held in 1937, and in 1952 the Soviet Union joined the Olympics.

Gustav Klutsis (1895-1938)
Spartakiada, 1928
Commercial postcard
6 x 4 1/8 in. (15.2 x 10.5 cm)

Alexandr Rodchenko (1891-1956)
Battleship Potemkin, 1925
Gelatin silver print
2 3/4 x 4 in. (7 x 10.2 cm)
Rodchenko-Stepanova Archive and Iskusstvo Kino stamps, title, and date in Cyrillic on verso of mount

Poster for Sergei Eisenstein’s famous film Battleship Potemkin. Battleship Potemkin, which presents a dramatized version of a 1905 mutiny on the Russian battleship Potemkin, is frequently named among the greatest films of all time.

Gustav Klutsis (1895-1938)
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, c. 1930
Vintage gelatin silver print
Signed by artist in pencil on verso
2 1/16 x 4 in. (5.2 x 10.2 cm)

Attributed to Aleksandr Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova
Kliment Voroshilov, 1935
Gelatin silver photomontage
6 1/4 x 5 1/4 in. (15.9 x 13.3 cm)
Possibly used for the album The First Cavalry (1937), designed by Rodchenko and Stepanova

Unknown
Lenin and Stalin in Gorki in 1922
Gelatin silver print, printed 1949
Published in Izvestia, 1 January 1952
9 3/4 x 9 1/4 in. (24.8 x 23.5 cm)

Gustav Klutsis (1895-1938)
Lenin, 1924
Photomechanical bookplate
9 1/4 x 6 1/2 in. (23.5 x 16.5 cm)

Sergei Senkin (1894-1963)
Lenin, c. 1929
Photomechanical print of photomontage
9 1/4 x 6 1/4 in. (23.5 x 15.9 cm)

Press Release

Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to present Soviet Photomontage 1920s-1930s, on view Tuesday, November 15 through Saturday, January 14 at 41 East 57th Street, New York, NY, Suite 704. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM, and by appointment.

Soviet Photomontage 1920s-1930s features unique collages and photomontages by the leading figures of the post-revolutionary Soviet avant-garde, including Petr Galadzhev, Gustav Klutsis, Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, Solomon Telingater, Alexei Ushin, Konstantin Vialov, and Alexander Zhitomirsky. Working in the fields of illustration, typography, and book, poster, and textile design, these artists pioneered powerful narrative tools and a new graphic language that continue to influence visual culture today.

“In photography – more than in other forms of communication – images must transmit the phenomena of the external world,” wrote Stepanova, one of the most important Constructivist artists of the period and the wife of Alexander Rodchenko, in her 1928 essay Photomontage. “And this places considerable responsibility on the artist. Periodicals, newspapers, book illustrations, posters, and all other types of advertising confront the artist with the urgent problem of how to record the subject in documentary terms. An approximated design cannot fulfill this challenge, this need for documentary truth…And so photomontage was born. Photomontage – the assemblage and combination of expressive elements from individual photographs.”

By repurposing and rearranging photographs, text, and popular imagery into original compositions, Stepanova and her contemporaries discovered new ways to condense space, time, and information into single images, where realism and abstraction, high and low culture, and multiple narratives were mixed and layered as never before. Innovations in graphic art developed hand-in-hand with the rise of the film industry in the USSR, for which artists found new work designing posters and advertising material, and with the use of montage in film editing. Artists were inspired by the techniques of directors such as Sergei Eisenstein, whose film Battleship Potemkin (1925) showed how the juxtaposition of nonsequential images could be used to influence viewers’ emotions and ideas. This revolution in style and aesthetics was helped along by the advancement of mechanical means of reproduction, such as photographic printing and lithography, and by the increasingly vast circulation and distribution of mass-media publications.

Like contemporaneous movements in the U.S. and Europe – for example, the Roaring Twenties and the flourishing of Weimar Germany – the golden age of Soviet photomontage was brought to an end by the advent of World War II and the tightening of state control over social and cultural institutions. In 1934, the First Congress of Soviet Writers declared socialist realism the official style of Soviet culture. Four years later, Klutsis, the father of Soviet photomontage, was arrested and executed under the order of Stalin. Others would perish in the war, like Alexei Ushin, who died of starvation during the siege of Leningrad.

Soviet Photomontage 1920s-1930s coincides with the centennial of the Russian Revolution, as well as the exhibitions A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde at the Museum of Modern Art (December 3, 2016 – March 12, 2017) and Humanism + Dynamite = The Soviet Photomontages of Aleksandr Zhitomirsky at the Art Institute of Chicago (through January 10, 2017).