Ivan Kudriashev’s interplanetary-dynamic abstractions (1917-1928)

Cosmism and
communism
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Biographical notes

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Born
Kaluga, 1896; died Moscow, 1972.

From 1913 to 1917 Kudriashev attended the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, and from 1918 to 1919 studied with Kazimir Malevich at the SVOMAS [Free State Art Studios]; there he met Ivan Kliun, Antoine Pevsner, and Naum Gabo. From 1918 on, under the influence of the ideas of the space scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovskii (conveyed to Kudriashev by his father, a carpenter who made rockets and other devices for Tsiolkovskii), he turned to the problems of cosmic abstract painting, as filtered through Suprematism. After the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary seizure of power in October 1917, Kudriashev worked for about a year on propaganda designs for automobiles to celebrate the first anniversary of the Revolution.

Ivan Kudriashev, photographer unknown (1940s)

In 1919, he was sent to Orenburg to establish the SVOMAS. That same year Kudriashev participated in the city’s inaugural State Exhibition, showing sketches for the mural of the First Soviet Theater along with other abstract works. Over the next year he worked on the interior to the Summer Red Army Theater and organized a branch of the UNOVIS group in Orenburg.

Kudriashev arrived in Smolensk in 1921, while serving as the supervisor of a train for the evacuation of starving children. There he met Katarzyna Kobro and Wladyslaw Strzeminski, two Polish followers of Malevich. Later on Kudriashev returned to Moscow, and from late 1921 onward worked as a designer. In 1922 he sent work to the “Erste russische Kunstausstellung” (First Russian Art Exhibition) at the Galerie van Diemen in Berlin. Between 1925 to 1928 his abstract works were displayed at the first, second, and fourth OST exhibitions.

After 1928, Kudriashev stopped exhibiting in the Soviet Union.

Early works.

Planets

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Ivan Kudriashev is one of the lesser-known painters of the Soviet avant-garde. Not for lack of talent, however. Brilliant, brooding, and celestially driven, Kudriashev was often given to interstellar flights of the imagination. He dreamed of nighttime passages between the Earth and other planets. This of course reflected the gravitational pull of Tsiolkovskii’s cosmism, which always held extraterrestrial ambitions.

Many of his darker paintings from the 1920s convey this sense of cosmic loneliness — that of a solitary mind launched and set adrift in a cold vessel, wandering through the black expanse of space. Kudriashev’s career was brief, but blazed a path fed by rocket-fuel.

Obviously, this overlapped with some of the themes Malevich was exploring in his Suprematism. Abstraction removed the old painterly imperative of figural representation; the painter was no longer a copyist preoccupied with questions of verisimilitude or other modes of human perception. Suprematism sought to reshape the universe according to the dictates of pure form. Lissitzky and others soon recognized that this would eventually entail a shift away from the flat, planar two-dimensionality of painting toward the three-dimensional space of architecture, and began preparing for the transition. Planity, forms that Malevich devised in order to investigate the manifold spatial implications of Suprematism, were also doubtless a source of inspiration for Kudriashev.

Kliun, Plaksin, Chashnik, Labas.

There is clearly common ground between Kudriashev’s work and that of Ivan Kliun, for example. Affinities exist between the former’s dynamic constructions and Mikhail Plaksin’s “planetary” paintings as well. One might easily add the name of Aleksandr Labas to this mix, formally seeking. In terms of content, there was the pervasive influence of science fiction, taking a page from novels such as Aleksandr Bogdanov’s Red Star (1908) or Aleksei Tolstoi’s Aelita, or the Decline of Mars (1923), not to mention Konstantin Iuon’s painting The New Planet (1920).

With Kudriashev, however, it’s the combination of light and line that give his pieces such dynamism. Sometimes the lines curve or even swirl, following the trajectory of an orbital whipped around the sun. Other times it’s more linear and unbending, as in a thin beam of refracted light. Here, Kudriashev’s encounter with the Rayonism of Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova is detectable. But there are even times when it almost feels like traditional elements enters in, also, as certain of his paintings resemble stained glass (though it should be noted that stained glass is not a native Russian tradition, imported as it was from the Catholic West).

Later works.

Kosmograd

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From the book Laboratory of Dreams, edited by John E. Bowlt & Olga Matic, in a chapter entitled “Tsiolkovskii as a moment in the prehistory of the Avant-Garde” by Michael Holquist, about the Soviet father of rocketry Konstantin Tsiolkovskii, we learn the following:

Kudriashev, an important member of the left-wing movement OST, was the son of a master model builder. In this capacity the elder Kudriashev had been invited by Tsiolkovskii to Kaluga, where the rocket engineer needed someone who could build wooden mock-ups of this machines. The young art student accompanied his father on these journeys, and actually helped translate Tsiolkovskii’s technical drawings into miniature space ships.

The relation of the new sense of cosmic, interplanetary space to the manner in which space was perceived on Earth became a major preoccupation of Kudriashev. As the artist himself would write, it was his aim to provide in his paintings “a realistic expression of the contemporary perception of space…that is the substantial novelty that today is producing the space-painting [prostranstvennaiazhivopis].”

The connection of interplanetary travel to the striving of OST members can be demonstrated in a number of ways, as in the 1922 construction by Vladimir Liushin entitled A Station for Interplanetary Communication.

(From Martin Gittins’ excellent Kosmograd website)

5 thoughts on “Ivan Kudriashev’s interplanetary-dynamic abstractions (1917-1928)

  1. Very good stuff!!

    It may be interesting to consider also Groys small book on Kabakov’s ‘The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment’ as a kind of counterpoint.

  2. Pingback: Iakov Chernikhov, Cycle of architectural landscapes and other fantasies (1930) | The Charnel-House

  3. Me encanta el arte abstracto en todas sus facetas, es que deja una gran visión para la imaginaron, para sentirse identificado y apreciar lo que el artista quiere dejarnos sentir, existen artistas como Picasso que han dejado las mas hermosas obras a la humanidad, así como artistas innovadores de la talla de Gabino Amaya Cacho que es el creador del puntillismo abstracto.

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