Gustav Klutsis was a pioneering Russian Constructivist artist, designer, photographer, and photomontagist. Alongside the works of Aleksandr Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, El Lissitzky, and Sergei Senkin, Klutsis’s work stands as one of the strongest examples of the post-abstract Soviet avant-garde. His wife and colleague Valentina Kulagina was an innovative poster, book, and exhibition designer.
Throughout their life together, Klutsis and Kulagina saw the camera as a tool that permitted experimentation and creative exchange. By the mid-1920s, their public projects entirely relied on photography. However, being a tool of contextual precision, the camera was also a channel through which Klutsis was able to escape from time to time the immediacy of the Soviet context. Klutsis’s cropping of the environment in which he repeatedly photographed Kulagina, situate her portraits in the lineage of international modernist production.
About Gustav Klutsis
A central figure of Constructivism and pioneer of photomontage, Gustav Klutsis participated in the political and intellectual ferment of the early Soviet Union as a photographer, painter, sculptor, graphic artist, designer, and teacher. After a period studying under Kasimir Malevich, Klutsis translated Suprematism’s fascination with pure geometry into more architectural constructions of wood and paper. In the 1920s he started using combinations of photographs taken from everyday life, self-portraits, drawings, and cut-outs from publications to create an early form of photomontage. Klutsis also created utilitarian objects through an ingenious combination of industrial design and assemblage, as in his agitprop stands made from fragments of loudspeakers, platforms, film projectors, and screens. Late in his career he was a key member of the avant-garde collective October alongside El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, and wife Valentina Kulagina.
Latvian, 1895-1938, Rūjiena, Latvia