Jan 282002
Authors: Nicola Grun

The Hatton Gallery in the Visual Arts Building colorfully showcases one of Europe’s most revolutionary artists on display from Jan. 28 to March 8.

“Aleksandr Rodchenko: Modern Photography, Photomontage and Film” opened Monday night.

Rodchenko’s contributions to photomontage, cinema and photography made him one of Europe’s most revolutionary and inventive artists. Rodchenko trained as a draughtsman and painter at art school in Kazan, Russia, where he learned architectural rendering and figurative painting. He was a leader of the Russian avant-garde and worked with a wide variety of media as a printer, painter and sculptor. He lived from 1891 to 1956.

When Rodchenko turned to photography in 1924, he abandoned easel painting for the camera as primary image-making tool for the modern artist. CSU Art Historian Linny Frickman explains that Russian revolutionary artists thought easel painting was inappropriate for the new Soviet State and the classless society existing after the revolution.

The relevance of Rodchenko’s photography today is his experimentation, especially with viewpoint. This is displayed by a series of eight of his photographs of everyday scenes taken at various angles. These include a diagonal view looking up a building and its protruding balconies, a man climbing a ladder up a tall building and a man blowing into a musical instrument.

His approach stands in contrast to the darkroom-oriented craftsmanship displayed in American and European photography. His use of nonvertical camera angles is a trademark technique. Rodchenko advised aspiring photographers in his time to “take several different photos of an object, from different places and positions as though looking it over.”

Photography instructor Doug Dertinger thinks that students’ relationships to Rodchenko’s art will be dependent on their own experience. “One of the things Rodchenko focused on was viewpoint. For example, what if you look up or down a building, how do objects change?”

“I am hoping that students will see this work being kind of joyful. I can look at things from a different vantage point. I can pay more attention to my world,” Dertinger said.

Photomontage became one of Rodchenko’s favorite artistic techniques and he regarded the camera as a flexible drawing instrument. A photomontage is produced by patching together different photos as a new work. Frickman explains that he wasn’t the first artist to make the photomontage, which has been popular since the 1920s. “He’s appropriating from media of his own time and doing something way in advance of the 1970s postmodern strategies in the 1920s.” n

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