CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

08 April — 03 May 2014

PAST EXHIBITIONS

21 September — 20 December 2013
07 June — 31 August 2013
Utopia Ltd 21 September — 20 December 2013
GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design presents an exhibition of Soviet avant-garde artwork reconstructed for a contemporary audience. Utopia Ltd takes the blueprints for change laid down by the radical Constructivist group and reimagines them in three dimensions. Model maker Henry Milner creates striking sculptures inspired by the geometric experiments of Soviet artists El Lissitzky and Aleksandr Rodchenko, and brings to life designs by Vladimir Tatlin and the pioneering graphic artist from Latvia, Gustavs Klucis.

From the mathematical precision of Rodchenko’s Oval Hanging Construction to the dimensional exploration of Lissitzky’s New Man, Milner brings together some of the most compelling artists from this incredible period of artistic innovation . Despite the gulf of time between their conception and Milner’s refined sculptural forms, his work still shares the spirit in which they were conceived. Where the Constructivists advocated for collaboration and momentum in their work, Milner accepts their open invitation to continue and experiment with forms and materials.

Occupying the new gallery space at GRAD, just off Oxford Street, London, is a detailed flying machine of impossible ambition; its fragile structure bound by a skeletal frame, flutes and curves with avian symmetry. Inspired by anatomical study of seabirds, the founding father of Russian Constructivism, Vladimir Tatlin designed the Letatlin to fuse man and machine in one fluid unit, epitomising the figure of the Soviet artist-as-engineer. Another of Tatlin’s utopian visions constructed in painstaking detail by Milner at GRAD, is the hugely influential ‘ Tatlin’s Tower ’ or Monument to the Third International . Conceived as the headquarters of Communist world  government, this mammoth feat of engineering, 400m in height, would allow the three sections of the structure to revolve independently, and  although it was never built in reality, the idea has assumed a ubiquity that has seen countless revisions and reconstructions over the last century. Milner’s tower marks the first faithful reconstruction of Tatlin’s final refined design of 1925, the most accurate embodiment of this revolutionary monument.

Curated by Courtauld Professor of 20th Century Russian Art, John Milner, and GRAD’s Principal Curator, Elena Sudakova, Utopia Ltd is also the first significant UK presentation of work by Gustavs Klucis, the youngest of the Constructivists. Klucis upheld the principles of Soviet modernism, aspiring to a functional and revisionary use of architecture, design and public artwork to promote the Communist agenda. He developed a style that crossed mediums from paint to architecture, united by the eloquence of pure geometric form. His visionary designs for multi-media public address systems, combining print, projection, radio and live oratory platforms, preceded Western developments in this field by decades. Klucis introduced a devotion to practical aestheticism that today remains the principal tenet of contemporary product design. Transposing these visions into pieces such as After Klucis, Henry Milner reflects the transition the Constructivists introduced to the course of modern art and design.

Combining Milner’s ‘retro-engineered’ sculptures with his source materials, prints, and documentary film and photography from the period, Utopia Ltd immerses the viewer in the spirit of revolution. By showing these works constructed in three dimensions GRAD’s latest exhibition advances the Constructivists’ objective to reassess the visual culture we engage with daily, bringing a contemporary perspective to their original body of work.  

Henry Milner, after Gustavs Klucis‘Design for a Stand with Rotating Slogan2013, wood, acrylic

Henry Milner, after Vladimir Tatlin‘Model for The Monument to the Third Internationl’(1925 version)2013, wood, paper

Henry Milner, after Vladimir Tatlin‘Letatlin’2013, green ash, cork, leather, steel, calico, cotton webbing, ply and twine

Henry Milner, after El Lissitzky‘The New Man’2009, wood, metal, plexiglass, acrylic,Collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven,photograph by Perry van Duijnhoven

Henry Milner, after El Lissitzky‘Announcer’2009, wood, metal, plexiglass, acrylic,Collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven,photograph by Perry van Duijnhoven

Henry Milner, after El Lissitzky‘Globetrotter’2009, wood, metal, plexiglass, acrylic,Collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven,photograph by Perry van Duijnhoven

Henry Milner, after El Lissitzky‘Gravediggers’2009, wood, metal, plexiglass, acrylic,Collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven,photograph by Perry van Duijnhoven

Henry Milner, after Aleksandr Rodchenko‘Spacial Consctruction (Circle) from the series Surfaces Reflacting Light’2013, stainless steel

Henry Milner, after Aleksandr Rodchenko‘Spacial Consctruction (Oval) from the series Surfaces Reflacting Light’2013, stainless steel

Henry Milner, after Aleksandr Rodchenko‘Spacial Consctruction (Square) from the series Surfaces Reflacting Light’2013, stainless steel

Henry Milner, after Aleksandr Rodchenko‘Spacial Consctruction (Hexagon) from the series Surfaces Reflacting Light’2013, stainless steel

Gustavs Klucis

(1895–1938)

El Lissitzky

(1890–1941)

Aleksandr Rodchenko

(1891–1956)

Vladimir Tatlin

(1885–1953)

Henry Milner