Graphic artist, designer, and actor Piotr Stepanovic Galadzhev (1900-1971) was born in Staryj Krim, Crimea. At the age of nine, he was accepted into the Stroganov Central Industrial Art Institute in Moscow, Russia’s leading design school, which later merged with the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture to form the Second State Free Studios (Svomas, later Vkhutemas). He studied graphic art under Vladimir Favorsky, and later took courses at the Studio of the Artistic-Educational Union of Workers’ Organizations in Moscow.
In 1915, while still a teenager, Galadzhev began work as an assistant designer at the Zimin Opera. In 1919, he created his first commercial collages, and in the early 1920s, he began making renderings of drama, ballet, and cabaret productions, which were often reproduced as covers or accompaniments to texts in the key theatrical journals of the time, among them Ekho (Echo), Antrakt (Interval), Ermitazh (Hermitage), Ekran Kino-Gazety (The Screen of Movie Gazette), and Vestnik Rabotnikov Iskusstv (Arts Workers Herald). He was the chief illustrator for the weekly magazine Zrelishcha (Spectacles), which covered theater and cinema. He also designed covers for the film magazine Kino-Eye and for the popular film library Kinopechat, for which he produced a cover for the 1926 pamphlet on Sergei Eisenstein and his famous film Battleship Potemkin. “Galadzhev’s art reflected the motifs of the Roaring Twenties,” John E. Bowlt writes in the book Pjotr Galadzhev 10.11.1995 – 29.2.1996, published by Galerie Alex Lachmann in Cologne. “Commercial advertising, mass communication, and the nightlife of big cities.” From 1918 to 1923, he created a series of counter-reliefs, assemblages made of wood, metal, paint, and other materials.
In 1921, Galadzhev met director Lev Kuleshov and enrolled in his course at the State College of Cinematography. He made his acting début in 1924 in Kuleshov’s film The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks. Galadzhev was a member of the so-called Kuleshov collective or Kuleshov workshop, along with actors, directors, and artists Vladimir Fogel; Vsevolod Pudovkin; Boris Barnet; Sergei Komarov; Alexandra Khoklova, Kuleshov’s wife; and Irina Vsevolodnaya, daughter of the famous theater director Vesevolod Meyerhold. He acted for free in Kuleshov’s classic film By the Law (1926) after the Soviet government cut Kuleshov’s funding due to the political content of his work. In 1970, a year before Galadzhev’s own death, he would be one of the last surviving members of the group in attendance at Kuleshov’s funeral.
Galadzhev went on to act in more than thirty additional films and to design more than fifty; he also directed three films. He worked on all aspects of film and theater production, from sets to props and costumes. He was a master of the sketches and drawings that were needed for plays and screenplays, and produced them for Meyerhold and Kuleshov, among other directors. In 1942, he was made deputy art director of the Gorky Film Studio, where he remained until the end of his career.
Galadzhev was given retrospective exhibitions in Moscow in 1961 and 1971, and was made a Merited Artist of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in 1965. Also in 1971, he was awarded the State Prize of the USSR for the film At the Lake. Galadzhev died in Moscow that same year at the age of seventy-one. He is buried in Vvedenskoye cemetery in Moscow.
Galadzhev’s work was exhibited posthumously in Moscow in 1990 and 2003 and in Cologne in 1995. His work was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2002, as part of the exhibition The Russian Avant-Garde Book 1910-1934, and in 2013, as part of the exhibition Cut’n’Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City. In 2014, his sculptures were included in an exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery in London. His work can be found in the collections of MoMA; the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, the V-A-C Foundation, Moscow; the State Central Museum of Cinema, Moscow, and the Moscow House of Photography, where he was the subject of a solo exhibition in 2003.