Friday, September 14, 2007

This is my rifle

Work is essential, the rifle is near.
V. Lebedev, 1920

Colour is a power which directly influences the soul. Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammer, the soul is the strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944), Russian painter, printmaker and art theorist.

“Okna ROSTA” – “Satirical ROSTA Windows” is a series of posters created in 1919-1921 by a group of soviet artists, who worked for ROSTA or Russian Telegraph Agency, which was the first state news agency in the young soviet republic. In Russian ROSTA is not only an abbreviation but the word has a meaning of its own – ROSTA means growth, giving group’s name a forward-motion flavor.

Working for a news agency implies rapid reaction on the pressing issues on the telegraph tape, so ROSTA posters were always bright, satirical and topical. Often they were done in comics’ manner. The series of posters were created by hand, later replaced with stencil technique, hence 2-3 color scheme and clear-cut images. Stencil allowed the agency to print small quantities of posters (typical circulation was about 150) without publishing houses and additional expenses. After printing the fresh posters were displayed in shop-windows across Saint-Petersburg. That’s why the group had “Windows” in its name. This was a great means of communication and propaganda – few could read and afford newspapers at the same time, and due to the shortages everybody had to spend hours standing in shop-queues.

Okna ROSTA group housed a lot of talented and revolutionary artists and poets like Kazimir Malevich - the pioneer of geometric abstract art, Aristarkh Lentulov - a major avant-garde artist, Ilya Mashkov, Dmitry (Moor) Orlov, Alexander Rodchenko - one of the founders of constructivism movement. The variety of artists resulted in wide scope of techniques used.

The author of the cubist poster above is Vladimir Lebedev (1891—1967) – a famous soviet graphical artist. He was one of the founders of Okna ROSTA group, where he created about 500 posters. Vladimir Mayakovsky – the futurist poet of the Revolution wrote a rhythmic and energetic text: “Work is essential, the rifle is near”. The poster has two meanings: the worker should work hard now, but in case of emergency, he is ready to fight. And another one is that those soldiers who were making the Revolution, were to start working and put their rifles aside.