• Aleksandr Rodchenko: Photography in the Time of Stalin
    Aglaya K. Glebova
    Yale University Press, 2023
    Aglaya K. Glebova

Aleksandr Rodchenko, “Cover for ‘USSR in Construction’ journal,” December 1933. Courtesy Rodchenko and Stepanova Archive, Moscow

Tracing the shifting meanings of photography in the early Soviet Union, this monograph reconsiders the relationship between art and politics during what is usually considered the end of the critical avant-garde. Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891–1956), a versatile Russian artist and one of Constructivism’s founders, embraced photography as a medium of revolutionary modernity. Yet his photographic work between the late 1920s and the end of the 1930s exhibits an expansive search for a different pictorial language. In the context of the extreme transformations carried out under the first Five-Year Plans, Rodchenko’s photography questioned his own modernist commitments. At the heart of this book is Rodchenko’s infamous 1933 photo-essay on the White Sea–Baltic Canal, site of one of the first gulags. The author's reading of Rodchenko’s photography reveals a surprisingly heterodox practice and brings to light experiments in adjacent media, including the collaborative design work he undertook with Varvara Stepanova, Rodchenko’s partner in art and life.

Aglaya K. Glebova is associate professor in the History of Art Department at the University of California, Berkeley, where her research focuses on interwar modernisms and realisms, history and theory of photography, and art of global socialism. Glebova’s work has been supported by the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), among others. Before coming to Berkeley, she was faculty in the departments of Art History and Film & Media Studies, as well as the PhD program in Visual Studies, at the University of California, Irvine. Born in Moscow, Glebova received her bachelor’s in history of art and architecture from Middlebury College and her doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.