Aleksei Alekseyevich Ushin was born in Leningrad in 1904. A famous graphic artist of the Soviet avant-garde, Ushin’s work was heavily influenced by Mir iskusstva (“World of Art”), a Neo-Romantic movement in early twentieth-century Russia that was in turn influenced by folk art, Art Nouveau, and the English pre-Raphaelites.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Ushin designed more than five hundred books and produced covers for numerous publications related to the cinema and theater of the day, including Fedor Nikitin (1929); Johnny Plays (1929), a portrait of the composer Ernst Krenek; The Golden Age (1931), an explanatory text for Shostakovich’s famous ballet; the repertoire collection On Guard (1931); and Proportionality in Architecture (1935), by prominent Soviet architect and theorist German Grimm. Ushin also produced covers for two important books on Soviet theater director and actor Vsevolod Meyerhold, The Meyerhold Theater (1925) and Reconstruction of Theater (1930).
In 1927, Ushin’s work was included in the exhibition Graphic Art of the USSR 1917-1927 at the Academy of Arts in Leningrad. In addition to his design work, Ushin made important contributions to the evolution of Soviet typography and invented a new style in the form of large, bulky letters, which were used for the first time in the Soviet film Vstrechny (“Counterplan”) in 1932.
Aleksei Ushin died of starvation during the siege of Leningrad in 1942.
The 1930 film Transport Ognya (“Transport of Fire”), for which Ushin designed the poster, 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 United States.