This month, as a part of UK/Russia year of culture, London’s GRAD (Gallery for Russian Arts and Design) is bringing together a collection of 1920s Soviet silent cinema posters. The collection includes 30 works by the brothers Georgii and Vladimir Stenberg, Yakov Ruklevsky, Aleksandr Naumov, Mikhail Dlugach and Nikolai Prusakov, many of which are exhibited in London for the first time. To represent the connection between the posters and the films GRAD is screening excerpts of 1920s Russian films alongside the prints.
During the 1920s the silent cinema flourished in the Soviet Union. Since the film was seen as a powerful propaganda tool, the Government encouraged the work of an emerging generation of artists. Films such as Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, 1925), which is regularly picked as one of the ten most important films in film history as it used innovations such as montage and careful editing, gained international acclaim. Under the umbrella of Sovkino, the Reklam Film department was producing and distributing the posters across USSR. Its helm was the designer Yakov Ruklevsky, who engaged numerous talented young artist.
“Created by those directly involved in, or inspired by the main avant-garde art movements of the time, including Malevich’s Suprematism and photomontages made famous by of El Lissitzky, the colour-blocking apparent on many of the posters echoes Russian artist Aleksander Rodchenkno’s view that all painting is a combination of three colours: red, blue and yellow” (Weatherup, 2014).
Influenced by the Constructivism and Suprematism, the designers used vivid colour blocking and typographic experiments to promote black and white films. However, this use of bold colour blocks was as much a technological necessity as it was an ideological one. To create their distinctive and influential designs the artists were using techniques such as cinematic montage, repetition, asymmetric viewpoints and dramatic foreshortenings in creation of both posters and films.
Kino/Film: Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen is on show at Gallery for Russian Arts and Design until 29 March 2014.
- Constructivism (2004) in: The Thames & Hudson dictionary of design since 1900, London: Thames & Hudson. Available from:<http://search.credoreference.com.arts.idm.oclc.org/content/topic/constructivism?searchId=2201629175831283500> [Accessed 13 February 2014]
- Cultural development (2004) in: Eastern Europe: An introduction to the people, lands, and culture, Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. Available from: <http://search.credoreference.com.arts.idm.oclc.org/content/entry/abcee/cultural_development/2?searchId=1760350259580285400&result=9> [Accessed 13 February 2014]
- In pictures: Soviet posters of the silent screen (2014), BBC. Available from: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-26015198> [Accessed 13 February 2014]
- Kino/Film: Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen (2014), GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design, [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.grad-london.com/whatson/kino-film-soviet-posters-of-the-silent-screen/> [Accessed 13 February 2014]
- Weatherup, J.K. (2014), Kino/Film: Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen in: AnOther Magazine, ANOTHER PUBLISHING LTD. Available from: <http://www.anothermag.com/current/view/3396/KinoFilm_Soviet_Posters_of_the_Silent_Screen> [Accessed 13 February 2014]