About the School

  • Aleksandr Rodchenko. The Courtyard of VKhUTEMAS. 1926–28. Gelatin silver print, 9 1/8 x 6 11/16" (23.2 x 17 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.

    VKhUTEMAS is an acronym for Vysshie khudozhestvenno-tekhnicheskie masterskie (Higher state artistic and technical studios).[1] Established in 1920 in Moscow as the successor of SVOMAS (Free state art studios), it was conceived as a specialized institution that would prepare qualified master artists, professors, and directors to work in both industry and higher education. It aimed to fulfill the state’s goals for efficiency and production by linking art with politics. The curriculum of VKhUTEMAS was similar to that of the Bauhaus. First-year students were required to complete the basic course, which covered subjects including color theory, construction, and art history, providing both an artistic and a political education. Other concentrations included metalwork, woodwork, textiles, and architecture. Although photography and film were not formally taught at VKhUTEMAS, they were used as supplemental mediums for related projects, such as sketching from photographs or photographing objects for study. Aleksandr Rodchenko, who joined the faculty of VKhUTEMAS shortly after its founding, taught the construction component and metalworking classes and lectured on topics such as “The Graphic Construction of a Plane.” It was at this time that Rodchenko and others turned away from abstract painting and toward spatial constructions and photography, which allowed the Russian avant-garde movement known as Constructivism to move beyond philosophical inquiries about the nature of art and to consider art as industrial production—and a means of educating the public.[2]  The roster of students and faculty at VKhUTEMAS included Alexandra Ekster, Gustav Klutsis, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, and Lyubov Popova. In 1928 VKhUTEMAS was reorganized and renamed VKhUTEIN (Higher art and technical institute), and in 1930 it closed permanently.

    —Ksenia Nouril

    [1] Masterskie is commonly translated as “workshops” in this context; however, “studios” is the literal translation.

    [2] Alfred H. Barr, Jr., “Russian Diary 192728,” October 7 (Winter 1978): 21. This text makes reference to INKhUK (Institute of artistic culture) in Moscow, which was active from 1920 to 1922, and its movement away from easel painting or the art object toward production and industry. Members of INKhUK included Aleksandr Rodchenko, Lyubov Popova, Alexander Vesnin, Varvara Stepanova, and the theorists Aleksei Gan, Boris Arvatov, and Osip Brik. See Maria Gough, The Artist as Producer: Russian Constructivism in Revolution (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2005), for detailed descriptions of these events.

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Helps develop the new curriculum when SVOMAS is converted into VKhUTEMAS
At location: Gustav Klutsis
November 1920–mid-1930
Teaches Construction at VKhUTEMAS
At location: Aleksandr Rodchenko
Beginning in 1921
Studies at VKhUTEMAS, which replaced SVOMAS
At location: Georgii Zimin
Graduates from the department of painting at VKhUTEMAS and is invited to teach monumental painting and architecture at the school
At location: Gustav Klutsis
Appointed dean of the faculty of metalworking at VKhUTEMAS
At location: Aleksandr Rodchenko
December 1923
László Moholy-Nagy invites Aleksandr Rodchenko to write a brochure on Constructivism for the Bauhaus
At location: László Moholy-Nagy
Affiliated: Aleksandr Rodchenko
Teaches a course on "color theory for applications other than painting" in the department of woodwork and metalwork at VKhUTEMAS
At location: Gustav Klutsis
Mid to late 1925 through 1930
Teaches interior design, metalwork, and architecture at VKhUTEMAS
At location: El Lissitzky

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