Alexander Rodchenko (Russian, 1891–1956) was an influential member of the Russian avant-garde and the founder of the Constructivist movement. Working as an artist, sculptor, photographer, and graphic designer, over the course of his career he continued to experiment with new media, push the boundaries of design, and establish new aesthetics. Originally a painter, he studied first at the Kazan Art School from 1910-1914 and then the Strogonov Institute in Moscow, where he was influenced by the work of Malevich. He would eventually abandon the medium, however, after he produced a series of primary-color monochromes in 1921, arguing that he had brought painting to its logical conclusion and it no longer served a purpose in modern life.
Rodchenko believed in the value of art in everyday life and, as a member of the Productivist group, concentrated on the production of more populist media such as posters, books, and films, which he would often use to promote Bolshevik political ideals. Photography became a central focus of his work, particularly the photomontage, and his work appeared in a number of Soviet newspapers and magazines. He was widely successful and celebrated, and his design principles were even applied to everyday objects such as clothing and furniture.
Despite his early popularity with the Soviet government, by the 1930s Rodchenko was no longer favored by those in power. As Stalin took over, Social Realism became the dominant aesthetic of the era and Rodchenko’s formalist ideals were considered heretical. He was able to continue working as a photographer – though in a more limited professional capacity – and returned to abstract painting in the 1940s, despite its official sanction by the government.
Rodchenko died in 1956 at the age of 64 in Moscow. His legacy has been a lasting influence on some of the most important artistic innovations of the 20th century, notably including the monochrome and Minimalism.