1928. Leningrad: Izdanie Gosudarstvennogo Russkogo Muzeia, 1928. Octavo (17.5 × 13.2 cm). Original decorative wrappers with a constructivist design by M. S. Brodsky; 72 pp. and 14 illustrations in the text, some full-page. Very light soil to wrappers; overall a very good copy.
First and only edition of this work about the hotly debated topic of “workers’ art” and workers’ IZO clubs comprised of amateur artists (IZO being an abbreviation for Izobrazitel’noe iskusstvo or “Visual Art”). The authors set out the history and basic principles of the “workers’ art” movement and its connections to avant-garde art. The formation of such amateur groups was part of the push to democratize the Soviet visual arts in the service of mass propaganda and education throughout the 1920s. Under the direction of the artist Moisei Brodsky, the disparate IZO clubs were unified under a more coherent program, and proceeded to develop new forms for decorative and applied arts, agitprop posters, and design of new communist interiors, “bringing art into life” and “making artists out of workers,” two central conceits of the avant-garde. In an introductory essay, the art historian Nikolai Punin argues for the regenerative quality of art made by workers with amateur training rather than by trained artists. The artist Vsevolod Voinov follows with a review of the 1925 exhibit of the IZO clubs at the Russian Museum, where the works of the amateur artists were exhibited alongside those of the masters. Sergei Isakov traces the history of the movement to 1923, when the creation of such clubs was first proposed. In a longer essay, Moisei Brodsky (1896-1944), the leader of the movement and the designer of the constructivist cover -- apparently inspired by Malevich’s “Black square” -- discusses the search for “new realism” inherent in workers’ art.
The text is supplemented with photographs of the artworks exhibited at the “Iskusstvo rabochkh” (Worker’s art) show at the Russian Museum in 1925, for which 67 IZO clubs (listed by name at the end of the text) provided over 1000 works. The various posters and design elements for communal cafeterias and worker’s clubs are unattributed and the originals of most seem to have been lost, making these photographs a rare surviving record of the contents of the show. These designs, in their fragmentation of objects, collaged quality, and use of shadow to create volume, show an unmistakable influence of Purism, a movement in French painting championed by Le Corbusier among others, which advocated for simplicity and precision of forms and a union of the avant-garde art with industry and technology. IZORAM (an abbreviation for Izobrazitelnoe iskusstvo rabochei molodezhi, or the “Visual Art of the working youth”), a more focused group of worker artists, was formed by Brodsky in 1928, with another exhibit of workers’ art held at the Russian Museum (Leningrad) and later Tretiakov Gallery (Moscow) in 1928. The IZORAM exhibit at the Tretiakov Gallery was held at the same time, and sold as part of the same ticket as a Malevich exhibit, putting the abstract and “functional” avant-garde into conversation. In 1931, IZORAM was dissolved and incorporated into the newly-founded Russian Association of Proletarian Artists (RAPKh). (See “Avangard na sluzhbe dialektiki: Gennadi Gor, Avangard i Purizm,” Stanislav Savitsky, 2013). One of 3000 copies. KVK, OCLC show copies at the British Library, Columbia, Israel National Library, Getty, Harvard, the MET, NYPL, Stanford, and Tate. Book ID: P6465