On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century
November 21, 2010–February 7, 2011
Rodchenko conceived of line as the edge of a plane that is receding in space. In a reverse demonstration of this idea, the nesting ovals that compose this construction were cut from a single sheet of aluminum-painted plywood, then rotated and suspended, transforming what was essentially a plane into a three-dimensional object suggestive of planetary orbits. Rodchenko made this work during a time of civic turmoil and great possibility in Russia, and for him and his Constructivist colleagues line was a component of a new art that would address societal ills, resulting in positive transformation. “In the line a new worldview became clear: to build in essence, and not depict (objectify or non-objectify); build new, expedient, constructive structures in life, and not from life and outside of life,” the artist wrote in 1921.
On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, November 21, 2010–February 7, 2011
Director, Glenn Lowry: In the 1920s, influenced by technology and industry, Russian artists such as Alexander Rodchenko created geometric and precisely composed works of art.
Curator, Catherine De Zegher: Spatial Construction No. 12 is the only remaining piece of the wonderful constructions Rodchenko made in the early 1920s. He cut concentric lines through the plane of a single sheet of plywood so that a series of rings could be unfolded and then rotated to create a geometric volume. So from a two-dimensional object, it becomes a three-dimensional shape. And it could be easily folded back to its original planar condition.
Glenn Lowry: Rodchenko was part of a group of artists known as the Constructivists, who believed art-making could lead to social change and revolution.
Catherine De Zegher: Constructivist works emphasized the collective rather than the expression of an individual artistic self. What the Constructivists, and in particular Rodchenko, were saying is that the line of the new art could not be drawn by hand but had to be drawn with a ruler and compasses. So the lines on the paper are then not the traces of an artist, but in a way are the lines of the implements of construction. And for them that's the line that they can do anything with. They see this as a new possibility to develop their surrounding world, to make people participate in society.
Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925
December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013
In 1920–21, Rodchenko produced a series of "spatial constructions" that marked abstraction's move from painted surface to three-dimensional object. Each work was based on the principle of repeating a single form: square, circle, triangle, and here, in this only work surviving from the series, ellipse, which the artist cut in concentric bands from a single piece of painted plywood, working from the outer edge to the center. Each spatial construction could be closed to form a flat plane, but when open it became an airy volume suspended above the ground. Simple as they seem, Rodchenko’s spatial constructions declared an end to the devices of traditional sculpture, being without figuration, mass, or pedestal.
The nesting ovals that compose this construction were measured out on a single sheet of aluminum-painted plywood, precisely cut, then rotated and suspended to make a three-dimensional object suggestive of planetary orbits. It was made at a time of both civic turmoil and great possibility in Russia, when Rodchenko and his fellow Constructivist artists sought to apply aesthetic ideals to everyday materials. They hoped their approach to art would help create a new language for the Communist state. Reflecting back on this time, Rodchenko said, "We created a new understanding of beauty, and enlarged the concept of art."