A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde opens this Saturday, December 3. The exhibition brings together 260 major works from MoMA’s collection, tracing the period of artistic innovation between 1912 and 1935. Planned in anticipation of the centennial year of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the exhibition highlights breakthrough developments in the conception of Suprematism and Constructivism, as well as in avant-garde poetry, theater, photography, and film, by such figures as Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Lyubov Popova, Alexandr Rodchenko, Olga Rozanova, Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg, and Dziga Vertov, among others.
MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA poster by the Stenberg Brothers.
This month on The Poster Boys, designers Brandon Schaefer and Sam Smith head back to the 1920s to look at the incredible film posters born out of the Russian Revolution and the work of two of Russia’s most prominent designers in particular, Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg. Despite a tragically short career, the Stenberg Brothers crafted over 300 posters during a period fraught with societal and technological change while becoming the pioneers of design and advertising techniques used throughout the world to this day. PLUS: a look in the Flat File at the poster designs for Buster Keaton’s silent comedy classic, THE GENERAL.
Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg, poster for Nepobedimye (The Unvanquished) (1928): “An extraordinary flowering of graphic design occurred during the decade following the Russian Revolution of 1917, when an art movement called Constructivism called on artists to be actively involved in creating the new society for which all had such high hopes. Constructivists believed that instead of making paintings and sculpture for an elite audience, artists should apply their skills to designing posters, magazines, theatrical productions, industrial products, and other useful objects. Naturally, they believed that a new and advanced society could only be brought about by the newest and most advanced art, and so the radical art trends of the day were suddenly applied to everyday concerns, as in this bold film poster designed by the brothers Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg, who had originally been trained as sculptors. Such artistic freedom and optimism were not to last, however. During the 1930s, the Soviet government came to view advanced art with distrust. Independant artists’ groups were abolished, and the government decreed that all artists must now work in a clear, easy-to-understand, realistic style. Those suspected of resisting risked imprisonment and death.” (Mark Getlein, Gilbert’s Living With Art, 7th edition. p. 245)