(1891, St. Petersburg–1956, Moscow)

Alexander Rodchenko wearing a work overall based on his 1922 sketch and sewn by Varvara Stepanova
Photo: Mikhail Kaufman, 1922–1923 (exhibition copy)
Courtesy Alexander Lavrentiev

Created two years after the Italian Tuta, Alexander Rodchenko‘s work overalls manifest a new understanding of the figure of the artist. According to the theory of productivism, the artist was no longer an outcast genius, but a qualified specialist, a participant in the overall construction of the new society and the new way of life. The artist’s means of production were now the pencil, ruler, and compasses (for which special pockets are provided in the overall), rather than a canvas and palette. With the help of these tools, the artist would design a new reality and, if necessary, subject the shape of the human body to geometric stylization. Unlike the Tuta, which was designed to be sewn from the cheapest cotton or hemp, the experimental model created for Rodchenko by his wife, Varvara Stepanova, used woolen fabric and leather trimmings on the collar and pocket openings in order to make the overall more durable. As a result of the industrial crisis there was no opportunity for mass production and the constructivist overalls remained experimental. The prototype remained a “comrade object” rather than a “commodity object.”

Ekaterina Lazareva