Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented

Aleksandr Rodchenko, Reklam-Konstruktor (Advertising Constructor) Agency. Maquette for poster for Tea Directorate (Chaeupravlenie) cocoa. c. 1924

Pencil and gouache on paper, 33 1/8 × 23 1/2" (84.1 × 59.7 cm). The Merrill C. Berman Collection. Acquired through the generosity of Alice and Tom Tisch, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, David Booth, Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, Jack Shear, the Patricia Bonfield Endowed Acquisition Fund for the Design Collection, Daniel and Jane Och, The Orentreich Family Foundation, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, The Modern Women's Fund; and by exchange: Gift of Jean Dubuffet in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Colin, The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, and the Richard S. Zeisler Bequest. © 2023 Estate of Alexander Rodchenko / UPRAVIS, Moscow / Artists Rights Society, NY

Curator, Jodi Hauptman: We're looking now at some of my favorite works in the exhibition. They're a collaboration between the artist Aleksandr Rodchenko and the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.

In the 1920s, in the early Soviet Union, capitalism was allowed for a brief moment, and they formed this advertising agency. Rodchenko would make these very dynamic graphics and Mayakovsky would make up these jingles, and then they would put them together. I'll just read the slogan for the chocolate because I just love it: "Comrades, there's no debate. Soviet citizens will get in great shape. What is ours is in our power. Where's our power? In this cocoa powder."

After 1917, those living in what would become the Soviet Union, were creating a society wholly from scratch. And what became part of these artists' mission, is to train a citizenry. How do you agitate a populace? How do you get them excited and involved? And these advertisements are just very much part of that—that every aspect of life, from your work to what you buy—all of that is collective activity that will further the ethos of this new society.

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