constructive morning with garen and rian

Last week, Garen Ewing sent me the link to a Russian Constructivist style poster he’d designed as part of his upcoming adventure comic, The Rainbow Orchid. A few days later, I coincidentally made the acquaintance of a Russian Neo-constructivist painter in Pret-a-Manger, who reminded me of the Rodchenko & Popova exhibition at the Tate Modern, running until 17 May.

The Russian Constructivists have been a huge influence on my own work, and I showed a bunch of slides which included Rodchenko, Lebedev and Malevich among others at the short talk I gave at the ICA on the DFC panel last year. So I couldn’t miss this one. I can’t even imagine all the bureaucracy the curators must have gone through to get these images from so many sources.

Despite the fact that all three of us were struggling with deadlines, Garen, Rian Hughes and I popped along this morning to have a peek. We went at a fairly brisk pace through the first rooms of abstract geometric paintings, but we got much more excited by the rooms full of amazing posters, all hand lettered. That’s what I love about these guys, they were into precise typography and bold, graphic aesthetics, but the handmade element gives everything an ever-so-slightly wobbly human quality, enhanced by the aging look of the materials (which of course didn’t look like that when they made them). These Russians claimed their work was progressive and less handmade than other contemporary images because they use sophisticated equipment (such as rulers and compasses!). Rian (designer and typographer extraordinaire) was thinking they would’ve been in seventh heaven if they’d had Adobe Illustrator; it would have fit right into their industrial ethos. But I’m so glad they didn’t. They do imperfection so deliciously well.

Here are Rian and Garen posing as Constructivist Men. But they don’t look half as hard as Mayakovsky, who featured in several photo portraits in the exhibition. (He was one bad-ass poet.)

Web links:
When my comics friend Ellen Lindner was working at MOMA in New York, she was one of the people who put together this amazing website for their 2002 exhibition, The Russian Avant-Garde Book 1910-1934. I was lucky enough to be in New York to see it, one of the best exhibitions I’ve been to.

And thanks to my friend Dan Brewer for this link to a blog about vintage children’s books.

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