Chromatic modernism in
the USSR, 1920-1935
Modernism is often criticized for its allegedly dull monochromes, the ostentatiously unpainted surfaces of its buildings and the desaturated stillness of their black-and-white photographic representation.
Part of this was intentional, for either promotional or artistic reasons. Thus one gets the rich black-and-white photos of brutalist buildings from the 1950s and 1960s, still colorless despite the availability of new technologies. As such, it’s just as much a part of brutalism’s brooding aesthetic as anything else. (Don’t believe me? Take a look through Fuck Yeah Brutalism’s archives). Or else there’s the deliberate intradisciplinary gesture, as in constructivist tekstura, which insists that the material components should be fully exposed, not concealed beneath “artificial” coloring. Either way, the naked white of plaster or the gray-on-gray of concrete, polished metal through untinted glass.
Il’ia Golosov, competition entry for the Leningrad Pravda (1924). Already Golosov’s fascination with towers is manifest
Aleksei Shchusev. Lenin Mausoleum, 87.4 × 66.7cm. First version of the final project, 1929-1930. Floor plan, facade, perspective. Ink and gouache on paper.
Vesnin brothers, Arkos building facade, 1925
Grigorii and Mikhail Barkhin. Dom Izvestiia, 1926-1927. Perspective view. Ink, watercolor, & white ink on paper.
Il’ia Golosov Elektrobank proposal for Moscow, 1927
Color schemes for the new residential block (Zhilmassive) in Leningrad : Alexander Nikolsky Studio (МАН) + M. Ender, B. Ender artists : Perspective :: 1927
Dmitrii Markov w/ Vladimir & Daniil Fridman. Lenin State Public Library, Moscow 1928. Perspective view, 34.25″ × 95.75″. Ink, gouache, white ink, and collage on paper.
Leningrad : Housing quarter : Kondratyevsky & Polustrovsky prospects (Kondratyevvsky residential block) :: D. P. Burishkin, L. M. Tverskoy, L. D. Akopova, O. I. Rudneva, associate N. D. Katzenelenbogen : Competition entry Perspective 1928
Nikolai Sokolov, Health-resort hotel (1928) studio of A Vesnin
Aleksei Shchusev, proposal for an administrative building in Samarkand, 1929-1930.
Porokhovskoy Recreation Center (House of Culture) : Leningrad :: N. A. Miturich, V. P. Makashov, etc. : Design :: Second Variant : Perspective view Watercolors, airbrush on paper: 1929
Another part was, of course, incidental. For a long time color photographs weren’t practical, and so much of early modernism’s more chromatic creations were lost to the general public — or at least, to anyone who couldn’t visit them in person. Continue reading