Aleksandr Rodchenko
The Russian Avant-Garde
Experiment and Innovation
New Cultural Institutions
Spatial Constructions
The Death of Painting
Graphic Design
Portraits of Mayakovsky
Workers' Club 1925
Design for Theater and Film
Stalin's Power
osip brik
cover for novyi lefcover for novyi lefLEF
NEP ended the privilege that the avant-garde had enjoyed within the new cultural institutions, obliging them to compete more actively with other, more conservative artistic groups. In response, in 1923 they founded the Left Front of the Arts, or Lef, whose name stressed the link between leftist politics and progressive art. Led by Vladimir Mayakovsky, who had won fame before the Revolution for his experimental poetry and flamboyant behavior, the Lef circle included writers Nikolai Aseev, Osip Brik, and Sergei Tret'iakov, filmmakers Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov, stage director Vsevolod Meyerhold, and literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky. Rodchenko designed all of the covers of the group's magazines--Lef (1923-25) and Novyi Lef (New Left; 1927-28)--and contributed extensively to their contents.

Aiming at "the production of a new human being through art," as Tret'iakov put it, Lef generated an original body of theory. At its core was the principle that artistic forms were themselves vehicles of ideology, and so the creation of a new society required the creation of new forms. Also central to Lef thought was the conviction that revolutionary art required the active participation of the viewer, who would be transformed by the effort of interpreting the work. Rodchenko's work of the 1920s - in design, photocollage, and photography--was a sustained effort to put these ideas into concrete practice.

© 1998 The Museum of Modern Art, New York