Inspired By Soviet Constructivism

ImageThese vintage posters from Anderson Design Group remind me of the vintage collection of the Soviet advertisements I have at my Manhattan apartment that show the consumer products of the USSR – red & black caviar (which, by the way, at the time it was advertised in USSR were not easily available to the general public – it was the desire of the Soviet leaders to show the Russian public that ‘life is good’), beer and vodka, ice-cream, cigarettes and toothpaste…

I  have a few of them hanging at my Manhattan apartment. It brings a nostalgic smile to my Russian friends and a curious wonder looks from my non-Russian friends. Here’s just a few of these Soviet Ad posters from my collection and more:

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Growing up, surround by the Soviet art, the origins of which go back to the greatest designers and artists like Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky, I didn’t care much for it as a teenager. However, later when I started studying graphic design, the appreciation for the works of these two greatest, as well as Wassily Kandinsky – the founders of the Soviet Constructivism, hit me unexpectedly and forever changed my opinion about the Soviet art.

By the way, did you know that the founders of the German Bauhaus school/movement, as we know it, took a lot after the Soviet Constructivism? Well, they did. I’m a big fan of Bauhaus, and you can imagine what a treat it was to actually visit the Bauhaus museum in Berlin last year!

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In front of Bauhaus Museum, Berlin (August 2012)

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The thing about the Soviet Constructivism is that it was done in the way it was allowed during those years, when everything in the art – from the books to music, was heavily censored by the Soviet government. Rodchenko did amazing work that back then didn’t feel as ‘propaganda’, but it so was the Soviet propaganda.

Vintage "Battleship Potemkin" film poster by Alexander Rodchenko.

Vintage “Battleship Potemkin” film poster by Alexander Rodchenko.

Vintage "Battleship Potemkin" film poster by Alexander Rodchenko.

Vintage “Battleship Potemkin” film poster by Alexander Rodchenko.

The screaming type and the very constructive images – sharp edge geometrical forms and the type that just lays inside, outside and along the lines of the images is the look that defines the Soviet Constructivism. And, of course, if you could understand the Russian, you’d know that most of Rodchenko and Lissitzky design work had some kind of a propaganda message.

Rochenko have done everything from film posters (most famous are the posters of the Sergey Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” film) to billboards.

When we discussed the Soviet Constructivism in my Typography class, the instructor told us that as the graphic designers of his generation in the 1960s and 1970s studied the Soviet Constructivism, they could only see it in the pictures – no originals were available due to the Iron Curtain that separated USSR from the west civilization. But when the Iron Curtain finally lifted – in the late 1980s during Gorbachev area, Guggenheim Museum of NYC brought the works of Rodchenko, Lissitzky and Kandinsky to America and for the very first time the graphic design professionals, students and afficionados were able to see the original work, which was so impressive that even until these days, the likes of our School of Visual Arts instructors, still remember the days, when they could, literally, ‘touch and smell’ the works of the greatest Constructivists. We, on the other hand, our generation of the graphic designers are the luckiest, because not only we have all the technology available for us to create art – we don’t have to draw, trace and cut out the hand-made type – but we also have all the resources available for us – from books and exhibitions to the enormous information – images and text on the Internet. Feel lucky that you can now order any book by any artist on the Amazon.com and at a great price too. At least own one book on the Soviet Constructivism!

As a graphic designer, you must know and own this book: Soviet Commercial Design of the Twenties by Mikhail Ankst. I just got it myself. I’ll be posting a list of the books one should have if he/she is serious about the graphic design.

You can buy the vintage posters, designed by the Anderson Design Group here.

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3 thoughts on “Inspired By Soviet Constructivism

  1. Pingback: Spending A Friday Morning With Tibor Kalman | Design Uncensored

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