Collection 1880s–1940s

Aleksandr Rodchenko. Spatial Construction no. 12. c. 1920 549

Plywood, open construction partially painted with aluminum paint, and wire, 24 x 33 x 18 1/2" (61 x 83.7 x 47 cm). Acquisition made possible through the extraordinary efforts of George and Zinaida Costakis, and through the Nate B. and Frances Spingold, Matthew H. and Erna Futter, and Enid A. Haupt Funds

Director, Glenn Lowry: Aleksandr Rodchenko was part of a group of radical young artists who came of age just after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Curator Leah Dickerman:

Curator, Leah Dickerman: They called themselves Constructivists. And in that, they were using the language of building things. The artist wasn’t to be a mystic or a shaman, but rather was somebody who could function like an engineer in building a new social order.

Narrator: This work is one of a series of spatial constructions made by Rodchenko for the group’s exhibition in Moscow in 1921.

Curator, Leah Dickerman: For each, Rodchenko made a drawing—a single, geometric form on a piece of plywood. And he would cut into the plywood and then rotate the geometric bands into an open volume and he secured them with wires so that it went from a flat plane into a three-dimensional object. There was nothing that was accidental or based on taste or arbitrary. And that’s a kind of logic that’s similar to the type of problem solving that engineers do.

And the product is something that's truly radical. Think in your mind of a traditional sculpture: the figure standing on a pedestal that is carved or cast. Well, Rodchenko's sculpture is none of these things. It's abstract, rather than figurative. It's suspended from the ceiling, rather than sitting on a pedestal. It's made of the simplest materials—plywood painted with metallic paint. And instead of being a mass, it's an open volume that integrates space within itself. And these principles end up being absolutely determining for the history of modern sculpture as it would play out in the rest of the twentieth century.

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