El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky, a Russian  artist, designer, photographer, typographer and architect was important during the Russian Suprematism. He designed many works alongside his mentor, Kazimir Malevich (founded this arts movement). These works displayed propaganda and displays for exhibition. His works changed the way one experiments with materials and production techniques, which later influenced the Bauhaus  and carries on to 20th century graphic design. He innovated change in producing photomontage, book production, and typographic exhibitions. El Lissitzky believed that artwork and artists could be used to change surrounding environments. Being of Jewish origin, he created books in order to help spread and share his culture through Russia. During this time, Russia was going through many changes.

His artworks, like many during this time were focused on basic geometric forms in limited colors and abstraction. Centered and based around right angles and grids. Text were often also placed at an angle. This different from the classic art usually based on what we see (Prouns: establishment for New Art). El Lissitzky’s piece “Beat the White with the Red Wedge” was one his most popular posters. In the image, we see shapes of primarily white, black and some grey. These simple composition is broken by a large red triangle placed in the center of the frame. This was said to symbolize the environment in this time period- the bolsheviks fighting their opponents during Russian Civil War.

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This helping begin the Constructivist movement. His works similar to these helped spread that art is not only what you see, but also can spread an idea or phase through simple shapes and forms.

https://www.britannica.com/biography/El-Lissitzky

Man Ray

Man Ray (1890 – 1976) was the only American to have played a significant role in the development of both the Dada and Surrealist movements (“Man Ray”). In 1913, he became influenced by the works in the avant-garde Armory show in New York City. During this time, his paintings displayed his interest in Modernism through his use of flat shapes and the patterns they created, rather than realistic renderings of subject matters. He befriended Marcel Duchamp in 1915, and switched his focus to Surrealism and Dadaism, as his once static works began to include more movement. Both Ray and Duchamp made many attempts to promote Dada in New York City (“Man Ray – Surrealist Photographer – The Art History Archive.”). It wasn’t until a trip to Paris in 1921, that he began to experiment with photograms (“Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) | MoMA.”).

Photograms are pictures created by placing objects on photo sensitive paper which are then exposed to light. In his photograms, Man Ray uses shadows to create images, which emphasized the influence of light and shadow rather than the objects and image itself (“Man Ray – Surrealist Photographer – The Art History Archive.”).  By turning everyday objects into visionary, abstract images, he challenges viewers to discover their meaning (“Man Ray | Rayograph | The Met.”).

“Gun with Alphabet Stencils” (1924)

An example of one of his works is a photogram titled “Gun with Alphabet Stencils”(1924). In this picture, Man Ray has placed the alphabet stencils around the revolver like scattered bullets. By having the stencils scatter about randomly, this defies the viewer’s expectations and rational interpretation, as the letters refuse to assemble themselves into recognizable words. The other objects are used to balance the composition while having no literal meaning. (“Untitled Rayograph (Gun with Alphabet Stencils) (Getty Museum).”

“London Transport Keeps London Going”(1939)

London Underground bull’s eye

As for his work in commercial art, Man Ray primarily worked with photographs, some of which was featured in Vogue, Bazaar and Vanity Fair. In 1939, he was commissioned by Frank Pick to create a poster for the London Underground. “London Transport Keeps London Going”(1939) plays on the Underground’s most recognizable trademark, the bull’s eye. He takes its basic shape and likens it to a planet floating in outer space (Eskilson, 149-152).

He is known for being a pioneer in photography during the surrealist movement. His biggest contribution to the art world would be photograms, or ‘rayographs’ (which he decided to name after himself). Although he was not the inventor of photograms, which he believed to be, he was the first to use these ‘camera-less’ pictures in a way that revealed a new way of seeing, by using everyday objects to create enigmatic and dreamlike worlds and images (“Man Ray | Rayograph | The Met.”).

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Bibliography

Eskilson, Stephen. Graphic Design: A New History. New Haven: Yale UP, 2007. Print.

Leigh, Brandi. “Man Ray – Surrealist Photographer – The Art History Archive.” Man Ray – Surrealist Photographer – The Art History Archive. N.p., 2007. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

“Man Ray.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

“Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) | MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

“Man Ray | Rayograph | The Met.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

“Untitled Rayograph (Gun with Alphabet Stencils) (Getty Museum).” The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

Gustav Klutsis

Gustav Klutsis Was born in a country called Latvia, He was drafted into the Russian army in 1917, fighting in WWI. After he served his time in the army he studied art and married his longtime collaborator and wife Valentina Kulagina. He also joined the communist party. This is important because the main focus of his life’s work is Russian Constructivism. Before Stalin rose to power Klutsis enjoyed making very revolutionary art where he explored the use of geometric shapes, photo montages, and Propaganda like images. He was known for making political photo montages and in 1918 he along with Hannah Hoch, Raoul Hausmann, and El Lissitzky were credited on inventing the subgenre of political photo montage. In the beginning of his career he was free to experiment but around when Stalin came to power he was pressured to be less radical and feature Stalin more. In 1938 he was arrested and executed on Stalin’s orders.

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Gustav Klutsis “Spartakiada Moscow”

If we take a look that two different pieces we can see the evolution of his photo montage but also his freedoms becoming restricted. If we look at the piece above called “Spartakiada Moscow”. Spartakiada was an international sports event held by the Soviet Union. This is one of the posters advertising it. In the poster we can see the beginnings of his photo montage style. He uses multiple images of people participating in sports to advertise the event that’s being held. We can also see the remints of Dadaism in this poster. It looks a little like organized chaos, it has a grid system that helps organize it but the images help keep that chaotic tension. Some images being squares while others are cropped out to just the figures. This helps with the chaotic feeling. Another thing is each photo that is below the upper half is a fighting sport or a show of strength. They have wrestling, fencing, weight lifting, and two boxing images. This helps create tension because each image is of action. Another very important image is the women in the upper right hand corner. She is important because it represents a very important ideal of Soviet Russia, how everyone can be useful especially the women of society. The type lays along the lines of the grids and are made of cut construction paper helping connect the dada movement to this poster. However, if we jump forward in time we can see some changes in the art.

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Gustav Klutsis “Under the Banner of Lenin for Socialist Construction”

If we look above, we see a poster called “Under the Banner of Lenin for Socialist Construction”. This is a propaganda poster made by Klutsis a few years after “Spartakiada Moscow” was made. We see an evolution of his photomontage techniques. His montage’s have become more complicated and complex. The main subject of the poster is Stalin and Lenin who are in the center of the poster. Each a photo of their head are meshed together with the eyes coming together. This is a very popular thing done at the time. This represents the Soviet Union’s one vision. A shared vision of everyone. The photos surrounding Stalin and Lenin are industrious in nature and represent the forward movement the Soviet Union is taking. This image does not push the boundaries nearly as much as the earlier image. This image doesn’t harken back to Dadaism but is much more in control and less random and chaotic. It serves it purpose of encouraging people to follow in the footsteps of the the communist regime.

Klutsis and his wife made many pieces of art some pushing the boundaries of Avant garde art and some more on the side of conventional propaganda. During his whole lifetime however the duo developed Photomontage to an impressive level of complexity and helped set how image and text relate together.