Bolshie art, and how El Lissitzky got under my skin, though I couldn’t afford to keep him there.

El Lissitzky.

My curiosity was aroused when I saw the name of Lazar Markovich Lissitzky. For a while in 2008, his “Lenin Tribune” (above; a Constructivist moving speaker’s podium) was a big influence in my thinking about the design for Bank Street Brewhouse.

That’s because I was determined to illustrate that when almost every other entrepreneur wants to be in a “historic” building, I’d take the modern one.

Little came of all this, as we had plenty of other bills to pay. But it was a damned fine fantasy while it lasted.

Reds, whites and truths: A century after the Russian revolution, a showcase of its art (The Economist)

At the Royal Academy, a sinister history lurks beyond the frame

ALTHOUGH it marks the centenary of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, the true inspiration for the Royal Academy’s new exhibition is 1932. In that year, a vast retrospective entitled “Fifteen Years of Artists of the Russian Soviet Republic” took place in the Russian State Museum in Leningrad. Curated by Nikolai Punin, an avant-garde luminary, it was meant to be the zenith of the radical artistic current that had been growing in Russia for decades. Instead, it was a swansong. Within years, many of the thousands of paintings featured would disappear into hidden store cupboards, trampled beneath the inescapable march of state-backed socialist realism. Punin himself, accused of “anti-Soviet activity”, was to die, starving, in a desolate gulag north of the Arctic Circle.

“Revolution: 1917-1932” covers the same 15 years as Punin’s show. The period has suffered some neglect. The myth goes that in the years after the Bolshevik revolution, bland socialist realism stomped on the avant-garde. In fact, after the revolution but before Stalinism tightened its grip on culture, there was a frenzied gasp of creative brilliance. Artistic, technological and political innovations clashed and co-existed. Kazimir Malevich turned the geometry of suprematism to figurative portraits of peasant farmers. Pavel Filonov would use the kaleidoscope fragments of his “formula” paintings to depict tractor factories. Buildings designed by El Lissitzky riffed on the crooked perspectives of photo-montage, and on the uncompromising functionality of industrial machinery.