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About the Publication
Novyi lef (New left) was the second journal of the Left Front of the Arts, an association of artists, designers, writers, and other creative workers born out of the Russian Revolution. The journal was published monthly in 1927 and 1928 by Gosizdat, the Soviet state publishing house. Aleksandr Rodchenko designed its twenty-four issues, the first of which were edited by Vladimir Mayakovsky, who was followed in that role by Sergei Tretyakov. Novyi lef succeeded Lef, the Left Front of the Arts’s first journal, which was published between 1923 and 1925. Lef, born out of the Russian Futurist movement, was the first publication in the Soviet Union to reproduce photomontages. Novyi lef reproduced photography (as did Lef and the state-sanctioned Sovetskoe foto) and promoted the idea of “factography,” or the use of language or art to describe or depict the realities of everyday life in the Soviet Union. Although it was not a technical or trade magazine like Sovetskoe foto, Novyi lef featured articles on recent theoretical developments in photography, film, and writing as well as artworks by leading Russian avant-garde artists, including Sergei Eisenstein, Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, and Dziga Vertov.
Within the pages of the journal, revolutionary creativity and politics collided. Photographs celebrating the accomplishments of Soviet modernization, such as Roman Karmen’s Moscow Illuminations Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution (Moskva noch’iu v oktiabr’ skie dni) (MoMA 1712.2001), were published alongside debates about the role of photography in such programs. In the second issue (February 1927), Rodchenko published his infamous letters from Paris, which drew attention to Western European commodity culture and came dangerously close to imagining a utopian material culture within the Soviet Union. It was in Novyi lef, in June 1928, that Rodchenko defended himself against a derisive letter published that April in Sovetskoe foto, the journal’s ideological competitor, in which an anonymous author accused the artist of plagiarizing the subject matter and composition of Western European photographers László Moholy-Nagy and Albert Renger-Patzsch. Soon after, in 1929, Novyi lef disbanded over tensions between the formalism of Mayakovsky and the proto–Socialist Realism of Tretyakov.
- Language(s) Russian
- Dates Surveyed 1927–28
- Cultural Hubs Moscow
Contributes articles to LEF and Kino-fot
Contributor: Dziga Vertov
Publishes in Novy Lef no. 6:45
Contributor: Semyon Fridlyand
Umbo sends six photographs to Rodchenko for Novy Lef; two photograms are published
At location: Aleksandr Rodchenko
Contributor: Umbo (Otto Umbehr)
Gosizdat (State Publishing House)