Tony Shafrazi Gallery Presents Exhibition Revolutionary Film Posters: Aesthetic Experiments of Russian Constructivism

. July 1, 2011 . 0 Comments

Tony Shafrazi Gallery presents the exhibition, “Revolutionary Film Posters: Aesthetic Experiments of Russian Constructivism, 1920-33,” a comprehensive collection of rare and exquisite Russian film posters, on view through July 30, 2011.

Culled from the world’s largest collection of Russian Film Posters from the great era of Constructivism, the 95 examples of the medium on view represent a unique opportunity to survey how one of the most significant movements in the early 20th Century avant-garde informed a radical graphic style that has had a dramatic influence on the development of fine art and design over many subsequent generations. Most of the work shown, though originally produced in the hundreds, constitutes the only surviving examples, and few have ever been publicly exhibited before.

Reacting to the chaos of the Russian Revolution, the Constructivists sought order and felt it their civic duty to engineer a more stable and harmonious society. While their utopian ideals and rigorously experimental aesthetics were applied across the entire social spectrum of contemporary experience to every mode of creative endeavor including architecture, art, dance, fashion, film, literature, poetry, publishing and theater, this golden age of poster art has not yet received the scholarship afforded most of the cultural production from that era.

Nearly a century after they were created, there is something so fresh and revelatory about these posters, at once extraordinarily modern and utterly unlike the formulaic, mundane and uninspired fare so typical of commercial movie posters and advertising today. Outrageous color schemes, a frenetic depiction of line, vertiginous compositions, abstracted iconography, stark silhouetting and dynamic geometric designs combined with highly innovative use of collage and photomontage give these images an undeniable gravity and outré wonder that will appeal to aficionados of film and the Russian avant-garde, captivate those who are less familiar with this history, and inform contemporary designers and artists alike.

Highlights of the exhibition include seminal works by such recognized masters as Alexander Rodchenko, “The Stenberg Brothers” (Georgii & Vladimir), and Alexander Naumov. Graphic interpretations of Vertov’s experimental opus “The Man With a Movie Camera” (1929), and Eisenstein’s landmark films “Battleship Potemkin” (1925) and “October” (1928) are shown alongside beautifully restored footage from the original classic films. American movie stars from the period including Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Ben Turpin, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. are seen in the posters for imports of such films as “Seventh Heaven” and “The General.” But for the delight offered by these moments of uncanny familiarity, the real treat is in the extent of heretofore utterly unknown gems unearthed here for films we may never see and by artists who remain as yet widely unrecognized.

Image: Anatoly Belsky, 5 Minutes, 1929. Color lithograph, 41 x 27 inches / 104 x 69 cm. Courtesy Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York

Category: Exhibition News