Building The Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935

As I mentioned a few posts back I was keen to get up to London for my fill of inspiration from some of the bigger institutions, before they ended. On New Years Day I took advantage of the parade to play with my new camera and see the Russian Constructivist architecture exhibition at the Royal Academy.

Perhaps unexpectedly to my state of ignorance or unpreparedness, the images in the exhibition were weighted more in favour of the modern day (most from 1999) photographs by Richard Pare, that record the fate of these relics nestled in much changed environments. While some spaces have remained abandoned or fall into dereliction it is much more intriguing to see how man has moved in and morphed the distinctive shells into something more comfortable and recognisably habitable. This coexistance was made all the more stark by the collection of original grainy photographs from original records, illustrating the buildings in their original pristine condition.

For context, these images were also balanced and accented with selected works by Popova, Lissitsky and Rodchenko to initially demonstrate the shift from two dimensional expression into the more actively employed three dimensional realisation of abstract design on canvas, into architecture for the masses.

To me, it appeared that the exhibition went to great lengths to emphasise the importance of architecture in expressing and cultivating the desired attitudes and behaviour desired by the State. Architecture often becoming the tool of policy, that shaped the work, industry, education, living, communication and leisure of the people. Having previously studied the revolutionary era of Russia at GSCE level about 7 years ago, much of the background information provided by the exhibition was a welcome reminder of these plans and policies. Fortunately, the only person with me had not 5 years ago, made domestic policy and life in Soviet Russia the subject of her dissertation. Suffice to say we were both in our element!

I also took a moment when I spotted the words: Constructivist and Decorative in the same sentence. Surely not?!

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