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Linearism, 1920

Aleksandr Rodchenko (1981-1956)

Oil on canvas, 
102.5 x 69.7 cm 
MOMus-Museum of Modern Art-Costakis Collection, Thessalonica 
© MOMus-Museum of Modern Art

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Against a black background, a series of lines and circles are sufficient to offer a sensation of movement within the space. Aleksandr Rodchenko achieves this by gradually reducing the size of the circles and placing them over the lines, thereby causing them to evoke axes of displacement. In his plastic investigation, the artist defined the concept of the line in the following terms: 


The line is the first and the last, in painting as well as in any construction. The line is path, movement, collision, edge and accessory: it is union and division. As a result, it has conquered everything and destroyed the last bastions of painting: color, tone, texture and surface. 


Rodchenko took the geometric experiences of Cubism as his starting point in order to develop this theory and engage in the simplification of form. In many of his works, the artist also applied mechanical methods of production, as these enabled him to achieve non-objectivity. This idea is one of the pillars of Constructivism: in the new Soviet society, which emerged after the Revolution, it was essential to socialize art, to create works that were capable of meeting the material and emotional needs of society as a whole. To achieve this, he proposed using machinery and industrial equipment to produce and distribute artistic objects, so that they could be brought within the reach of every citizen. He explains as much in the Realist Manifesto: 


Today, before all of you, we declare our faith. We exhibit our works in the squares and streets, confident in the belief that art must not continue to be a sanctuary for the idle, a consolidation for the desperate or a justification for the indolent. Art must accompany us in the places where life happens: in the workshop, at the table, at work, at rest, at play, on working days and during vacations, at home and in the street; in such a way that the flame of life is not extinguished in humanity.