russian samizdat artby john e. bowlt; szymon bojko; valery gerlovin; rimma gerlovin

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  • Leonardo

    Russian Samizdat Art by John E. Bowlt; Szymon Bojko; Valery Gerlovin; Rimma GerlovinReview by: Nicoletta MislerLeonardo, Vol. 21, No. 1 (1988), pp. 102-103Published by: The MIT PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1578437 .Accessed: 12/06/2014 20:40

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  • key arguments that, in some respects, might undermine the convenient historical divisions that have been established for the Russian avant-garde. For example, it is always tempting to accept the popular argument that the October Revolution inspired Rodchenko and other avant- garde artists to explore the ideas of industrial and mechanical forms, to favor an art of construction and to emphasize the relevance of applied art. But we must not forget that Rodchenko (like Exter, Malevich, Popova, Georgii Yakulov and others) was interested in these issues before the Revolution and contributed a number of "Constructivist" designs to Moscow exhibitions in 1916 and early 1917. In other words, a political chronology does not always coincide with an artistic one, and, even though they may seem to interconnect, they may run only parallel and never touch.

    A palpable weakness of this book lies in the treatment of Rodchenko's later activities, i.e. from the mid-1930s onwards. There is no attempt to place Rodchenko in the harsh political context of that time, to tell us the real story of his journey to the White Sea Canal project as a press photographer in the early 1930s, and there is only muted reference to the mounting attacks on him in the press. We would not know from this biography that Rodchenko's works were removed from display in Soviet museums in 1934 (until the mid-1960s), that he was dismissed as a 'formalist' and that, after the arrests of his colleagues Alexander Drevin and Gustav Klucis in the late 1930s, he lived in fear of his life. Understandably, Khan- Magomedov is not in a position to deal with these complexities, but we have the right to question the validity of such silence and to expect-one day-a fuller reckoning. This book may contain disorientations and lacunae, but it still demonstrates the author's tenacity and his commitment to the Russian avant- garde. The result is an exceptional monument-well researched, well plan- ned, well designed-to an exceptional artist, and we should be grateful to Khan- Magomedov for his perseverance and dedication.

    RUSSIAN SAMIZDAT ART by John E. Bowlt, Szymon Bojko and

    key arguments that, in some respects, might undermine the convenient historical divisions that have been established for the Russian avant-garde. For example, it is always tempting to accept the popular argument that the October Revolution inspired Rodchenko and other avant- garde artists to explore the ideas of industrial and mechanical forms, to favor an art of construction and to emphasize the relevance of applied art. But we must not forget that Rodchenko (like Exter, Malevich, Popova, Georgii Yakulov and others) was interested in these issues before the Revolution and contributed a number of "Constructivist" designs to Moscow exhibitions in 1916 and early 1917. In other words, a political chronology does not always coincide with an artistic one, and, even though they may seem to interconnect, they may run only parallel and never touch.

    A palpable weakness of this book lies in the treatment of Rodchenko's later activities, i.e. from the mid-1930s onwards. There is no attempt to place Rodchenko in the harsh political context of that time, to tell us the real story of his journey to the White Sea Canal project as a press photographer in the early 1930s, and there is only muted reference to the mounting attacks on him in the press. We would not know from this biography that Rodchenko's works were removed from display in Soviet museums in 1934 (until the mid-1960s), that he was dismissed as a 'formalist' and that, after the arrests of his colleagues Alexander Drevin and Gustav Klucis in the late 1930s, he lived in fear of his life. Understandably, Khan- Magomedov is not in a position to deal with these complexities, but we have the right to question the validity of such silence and to expect-one day-a fuller reckoning. This book may contain disorientations and lacunae, but it still demonstrates the author's tenacity and his commitment to the Russian avant- garde. The result is an exceptional monument-well researched, well plan- ned, well designed-to an exceptional artist, and we should be grateful to Khan- Magomedov for his perseverance and dedication.

    RUSSIAN SAMIZDAT ART by John E. Bowlt, Szymon Bojko and Rimma and Valery Gerlovin. Willis Locker & Owens Publishing, 71 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012, U.S.A., 1986. 210 pp., illus. Paper, $9.95; Trade, $19.95. ISBN: 09320279050; ISBN: 0930279042.

    Rimma and Valery Gerlovin. Willis Locker & Owens Publishing, 71 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012, U.S.A., 1986. 210 pp., illus. Paper, $9.95; Trade, $19.95. ISBN: 09320279050; ISBN: 0930279042.

    Reviewed by Nicoletta Misler, via Foscolo 24, 00185 Roma, Italy.

    Russian Samizdat Art was published on the occasion of an exhibition of the same name that opened at the Franklin Furnace Gallery, New York, in 1982 and then toured various cities in the U.S. and Canada, finishing at the LACE Gallery, Los Angeles, in time for the 1984 Olympic Games. Both the exhibition and the book were designed and assembled by Rimma and Valery Gerlovin, although, un- questionably, the book is an autonomous endeavor both in its 'democratic', paperback edition and in its deluxe, limited edition (125 copies supplemented with six artist prints by V. Bakhchanyan, M. Chernyshov, R. Gerlovina, V. Gerlovin, H. Khudyakov, and Komar and Melamid). One wonders, in fact, whether these added prints should not also be regarded as samizdat. Charles Doria has organized the book on three different levels: the historical approach traces the avant-garde origins of the samizdat edition back to the Cubo- Futurist manifestos; the sociological analysis of the Russian cultural emigra- tions from the nineteenth century onwards; and a contemporary overview of the new Soviet avant-garde from the 'inside', i.e. by those who have partici- pated in it.

    In the first article, "A Slap in the Face of Public Taste", John E. Bowlt argues that the Russian Cubo-Futurist book of the 1910s, often hand made or hand

    painted and issued in very limited editions, constituted a portable work of art. Here was an artifact that often contained-within its miniature format -more radical experiments than a large canvas did. Consequently, these booklets "can be viewed as an intimate gallery of modern Russian art, containing all the isms (and more) that Hans Arp and El

    Lissitzky described in 1924". True, Bowlt does not make a direct connection between these experiments and the contemporary manifestations of samizdat included in the exhibition, but, no doubt, the minimal scale, the restricted accessi-

    bility of meaning, and the 'familial' distribution network parallel the samizdat of today, even if the social conditions under which the latter is created are quite different from those of 60 years ago. After all, the very notion of samizdat derives immediately from the rituals and

    Reviewed by Nicoletta Misler, via Foscolo 24, 00185 Roma, Italy.

    Russian Samizdat Art was published on the occasion of an exhibition of the same name that opened at the Franklin Furnace Gallery, New York, in 1982 and then toured various cities in the U.S. and Canada, finishing at the LACE Gallery, Los Angeles, in time for the 1984 Olympic Games. Both the exhibition and the book were designed and assembled by Rimma and Valery Gerlovin, although, un- questionably, the book is an autonomous endeavor both in its 'democratic', paperback edition and in its deluxe, limited edition (125 copies supplemented with six artist prints by V. Bakhchanyan, M. Chernyshov, R. Gerlovina, V. Gerlovin, H. Khudyakov, and Komar and Melamid). One wonders, in fact, whether these added prints should not also be regarded as samizdat. Charles Doria has organized the book on three different levels: the historical approach traces the avant-garde origins of the samizdat edition back to the Cubo- Futurist manifestos; the sociological analysis of the Russian cultural emigra- tions from the nineteenth century onwards; and a contemporary overview of the new Soviet avant-garde from the 'inside', i.e. by those who have partici- pated in it.

    In the first article, "A Slap in the Face of Public Taste", John E. Bowlt argues that the Russian Cubo-Futurist book of the 1910s, often hand made or hand

    painted and issued in very limited editions, constituted a portable work of art. Here was an artifact that often contained-within its miniature format -more radical experiments than a large canvas did. Consequently, these booklets "can be viewed as