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Yakov Khalip (1908-1980)

Yakov Khalip (1908-1980)
On Guard (Large-bore Cannon), Baltic Fleet, 1936
Vintage gelatin silver print
Image 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 in.
Paper 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 in.
Signed and dated by Khalip's wife in pencil on verso
Soyuzfoto stamp on verso
"The First All-Union Exhibition of Photographic Art. YA Khalip" printed on verso

Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959)

Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959)
Express, 1939
Vintage gelatin silver print
15 11/16 x 21 1/4 in. (39.8 x 54 cm)
Photographer's stamp and signature in blue pencil on verso
Title in Cyrillic and date in pencil on verso

This subject of this photograph is an embodiment of dynamism, a symbol of the new Soviet society moving towards a bright future. The steam conceals the wheels of the vehicle, so that it appears almost like a dirigible about to take off. The sky is superimposed for dramatic effect. Published in Soviet Photo #2 in 1940, this photograph became one of the greatest achievements of Soviet photography. Soviet design in the late 1930s cannot be imagined without the Soviet metro, aviation, and this Express engine.

Construction of the Globe

Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959)
Construction of the Globe at the Moscow Telegraph, 1928
Gelatin silver print
9 7/16 x 7 in. (24.0 x 17.8 cm)
Date in pencil and title in pen in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp and signature on verso

Two workers construct the revolving glass globe that decorated the facade of Moscow's Central Telegraph Building. The Globe both documents the rapid technological developments in 1920s Moscow, and conveys a powerful message about the Soviet Union's new global position. As a key member of the Soviet avant-garde in the 1920s, Shaikhet captured the photograph with a Constructivist eye — as evident in the tight framing and the sharp contrasts of light and dark that celebrate industrial form. The artist and designer El Lissitzky incorporated this photograph into his 1930 photocollage for the International Hygiene Exhibition, Dresden, in which the globe is superimposed onto the body of a factory worker. 

Motherhood

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)
Motherhood, 1938
Vintage gelatin silver print mounted on board
14 3/4 x 19 3/8 in. (37.5 x 49.2 cm)
Photographer's stamp on mount verso

Ignatovich creates a symmetry between the colt's black body and that of the white mare behind. The classicized aesthetic of motherhood is represented by animals and people alike.

Portrait of Mayakovsky

Aleksander Rodchenko (1891-1956)
Portrait of Mayakovsky with Scottie, Pushkino, 1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
14 5/16 x 11 1/4 in. (36.4 x 28.6 cm)
Titled "V.V. Mayakovsky, Pushkino" and dated  by Rodchenko in pencil on verso
Rodchenko stamp on verso

Moisei Nappelbaum (1869-1958)

Moisei Nappelbaum (1869-1958)
Portrait of Nina Podgoretskaya, Ballet Dancer at the Bolshoi, 1934
Vintage gelatin silver print
14 1/2 x 10 5/8 in. (36.8 x 27.0 cm)

In the 1920s, Nina Podgoretskaya was one of the Bolshoi Ballet’s most beloved starlets, along with Anastasia Abramova, Liubov Bank, and Valentina Kudriavtseva. Here, Podgoretskaya delicately holds the gauze of her dress, which floats from her hand like mist. Nappelbaum illuminated the background by dabbing watercolor on the glass of the negative, thus emphasizing the ethereal impression of her hands and dress. A portraitist with a painterly approach to his art, Nappelbaum wrote in his book From Craft To Art (1958):

"It is more difficult to photograph a face with regular features than one with irregular features. I have always used the subject’s hands both to suggest a psychological atmosphere and to serve as a secondary element in the composition of the image. At the same time, they give a finishing touch to the design . . . I firmly ruled out the use of entirely white or entirely grey backgrounds being too monotonous and unexpressive."

See Shudakov, G. 1983. Pioneers of Soviet Photography. London: Thames & Hudson, p. 15.

Portrait of Mayakovsky

Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956)
Portrait of Mayakovsky, 1924
Vintage gelatin silver print, printed by Spiridovsky
8 15/16 x 11 3/8 in. (22.7 x 28.9 cm)
OGIZ-POLITIZDAT stamp on verso
"Foto Rodchenko, by Spiridovsky" in ink on verso
"V. V. Mayakovsky" in Cyrillic on verso

Georgy Petrussov (1903-1971)

Georgy Petrussov (1903-1971)
Caricature portrait of the photographer Dmitry Debabov, 1934
Vintage gelatin silver print
Title and signature in Cyrillic in pencil on verso
8 5/8 x 6 7/8 in. (21.9 x 17.5 cm)

Among the dynamic and experimental artists working in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s was the avant-garde photographer Georgy Petrussov. While Petrussov is distinguished for his scenes of industry and technology, he demonstrates a bright sense of humor and a lively spirit of innovation through his caricatures of prominent Soviet photographers such as Aleksandr Rodchenko, Boris Kudoyarov, and Dmitry Debabov. Petrussov constructed the Debabov caricature — in which the gigantesque artist is humorously juxtaposed against the landscape’s low shrubbery — by cutting and pasting several negatives, and submitted this photograph, along with other caricatures, for the seminal 1935 exhibition Masters of Soviet Photography in Moscow.

Armenian Delegation

Georgy Petrussov (1903-1971)
Armenian Delegation at the Parade on Red Square, Moscow, 1935
Vintage gelatin silver print
18 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches (47 x 31.5 cm)

 

Petrussov captures a trio of Armenian athletes as they participate in a 1935 sports parade on Red Square in Moscow, catching each man's feet in a different step of traditional dance. The geometric pattern created by the athletes’ interlinked backs and arms conveys their fraternity and solidarity, while the backlit composition highlights their well-defined musculature and physical prowess. Petrussov took this photograph at the height of Stalinism, when youth, health, and physical strength were strongly linked to national strength — just as Germany, at the same time, was promoting the ideal of the Aryan Übermensch — and when Red Square had become a kind of national stage for annual displays of athleticism. This extremely rare vintage print is printed on equally historic twentieth-century paper, whose warmth and texture can be seen in both the soft leather of the athletes’ shoes and the rough cobblestone they dance on.

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)
Youth, 1937
Vintage gelatin silver print mounted on board
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp on verso
16 1/2 x 21 15/16 in. (41.9 x 55.7 cm)

Boris Ignatovich was a major force in Constructivist photography in the 1920s, alongside Aleksandr Rodchenko. Yet Ignatovich demonstrated a more humanist aesthetic approach to photography, as reflected in this photograph from 1937. Ignatovich positioned his two subjects in a graceful triangular composition that also corresponds to the rounded shape of his camera lens. He gave the image a warm vitality by masterfully balancing depth and tone, light and shadow — a technical control of light that he developed in the 1920s. This photograph has become iconic in Soviet photography. This large-size print was made for an exhibition and is very rare.

With a Board

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)
With a Board, 1929, printed 1960s
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (24.5 x 16.5 cm)
Signature and date in pencil and photographer's stamp on verso

A worker skillfully balances on lumber while carrying another piece of wood over his shoulder. Leading avant-garde artist El Lissitzky incorporated With a Board into his design for the cover of Russland for the 1929 book series Neus Bauen in Der Welt, which represented the architectural fantasies of America, France, and Russia.

crowd, st. petersburg

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)
Crowd 2 (variant 2), St. Petersburg, 1992
Toned gelatin silver print
Edition 1/10
12 x 12 in. (30.5 x 30.5 cm)
Signed, titled, dated, and editioned on verso

Titarenko's iconic images of crowds swarming into Vasileostrovskaya Metro Station in the early 1990s were an instinctive response to an atmosphere of meaninglessness and despair that suffused his native city of St. Petersburg and, indeed, the entire country during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Reflecting on the photographs a decade later, Titarenko wrote that “all these people conditioned by propagandistic models of representation, a palpable ensemble of smiling faces, were becoming wandering shadows.” Through long exposure and masterful printing in the darkroom, Titarenko expressed the crowds of Russian people pushing their way into the station in St. Petersburg as a gray, indistinguishable blur ⁠— in short, as a "city of shadows," the title of this first major body of work. The images evoke not only the struggle of ordinary people during the tumultuous dissolution of the USSR, but also the suffering of the they endured throughout the revolutions, wars, and political repression of the twentieth century. City of Shadows, coming on the heels of Titarenko's early photomontages and photocollages from the series Nomenklatura of Signs (1986-1991), brought the artist international recognition. Today, works from City of Shadows can be found in the collections of major museums worldwide, including the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Fondazione MAST, Bologna; and the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk.

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)
Red Flag, 1987

(Nearest Bathrooms, 11 Khalturina Street, Mikhailovsky Garden)
From the series Nomenklatura of Signs (1986-1991)
Unique photocollage with gelatin silver print, newspaper clippings and red fabric
8 x 9 ¼ in. (20 x 23.5 cm)

Titarenko’s first major body of work, Nomenclature of Signs is a biting critique of the Soviet class of powerful bureaucrats known as the “nomenklatura,” who imposed visual propaganda upon the Soviet psyche that deprived citizens of their individuality and authenticity. Titarenko mocks this dehumanizing propaganda in his collages and photomontages by depicting the Soviet subject as an assemblage of prosaic signs and symbols. Inspired by the traditions of Dada and Futurism, Titarenko poetically destroys and recreates meaning from these signs in his collages by combining torn-up portraits, fragments from Leonid Brezhnev’s speeches, and scraps of red linen. With irreverence and humor, he expresses the need for deeper portrayals of human experience and its assortment of misfortunes, struggles, and joys.

 

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)
KBG 425 (version 3), 1987
From the series Nomenklatura of Signs (1986-1991)
Unique photocollage with gelatin silver print, newspaper clippings, gouache and fabric
8 x 9 ¼ in. (20 x 23.5 cm)

Titarenko’s first major body of work, Nomenclature of Signs is a biting critique of the Soviet class of powerful bureaucrats known as the “nomenklatura,” who imposed visual propaganda upon the Soviet psyche that deprived citizens of their individuality and authenticity. Titarenko mocks this dehumanizing propaganda in his collages and photomontages by depicting the Soviet subject as an assemblage of prosaic signs and symbols. Inspired by the traditions of Dada and Futurism, Titarenko poetically destroys and recreates meaning from these signs in his collages by combining torn-up portraits, fragments from Leonid Brezhnev’s speeches, and scraps of red linen. With irreverence and humor, he expresses the need for deeper portrayals of human experience and its assortment of misfortunes, struggles, and joys.

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)
Fish, cakes, pastries, 1988
From the series Nomenklatura of Signs (1986-1991)
Vintage mounted gelatin silver print
8 x 9 ¼ in. (20 x 23.5 cm)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)
Meat, 1986
From the series Nomenklatura of Signs (1986-1991)
Vintage mounted gelatin silver print
8 x 9 ¼ in. (20 x 23.5 cm)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)
Male worker (version 4), 1988
From the series Nomenklatura of Signs (1986-1991)
Toned gelatin silver photomontage
Image size 16 x 18 ¾ in. (40.6 x 47.6 cm)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)
Female worker (version 4), 1988
From the series Nomenklatura of Signs (1986-1991)
Toned gelatin silver photomontage
Image size 13 2/5 x 14 in. (34 x 35.5 cm)
Paper size 14 ½ x 17 in. (37 x 43 cm)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)
Kino, 1988
From the series Nomenklatura of Signs (1986-1991)
Vintage toned gelatin silver print 
Image 13 3/5 x 13 2/5 in. (34.5 x 34 cm)
Paper 17 1/3 x 16 in. (44 x 41 cm)

“Titarenko expose (personnellement) à partir de 1983 à Leningrad (aujourd’hui Saint Petersbourg), à Paris en 1988 (galerie Drouart) et participe à des expositions de groupe à Saint Pétersbourg encore, avec la série d’images Nomenklatura des signes. It dit, à propos de ce travail: ‘Pendant 73 ans de son existence, le pouvoir de la nomenklatura en U.R.S.S. s’est transformé en une autre nomenklatura des signes qui ont été inventés par la bureaucratie pour placer la vie humaine entre paren- thèses de l’idéologie. L’absurde délirant a fait disparaître la véritable signification des choses: le magasin de viande se réduit au signe du magasin.’”

Larousse Dictionnaire de la photographie, 1999

 

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)

Alexey Titarenko (b. 1962, St. Petersburg)
Gastronom, 1988
From the series Nomenklatura of Signs (1986-1991)
Vintage toned gelatin silver print
Image 14 x 13 1/2 in. (35.6 x 34.2 cm)
Paper 15 1/4 x 14 3/4 in. (38.7 x 37.5 cm)