The propaedeutical discipline of Graphics began with the first assignment in the workshop of Rodchenko at the Faculty of Painting in September 1921.
“We gathered in the appointed workshop waiting for the arrival of Rodchenko … The man entered the workshop, he had an appearance of either a pilot or a motorist. His clothes were as follows: a beige military-cut jacket, galliffet trousers of grey-green color; on his legs there were black lace-up boots and gray ankle wraps. He was wearing a black hat with a huge glossy leather visor… Without any preface, having looked at all of us (there were 20 of us), he silently began to set up a still life of the things he had brought. We saw that these things repeated the colors of his clothes: beige, shiny and matte black, a few shades of gray, etc. This still life lacked things that everyone was used to seeing in modern painting. There were no bright fabrics, no rosy apples, no richly ornamented dishes. On the background of a piece of plywood, there was a lacquered square. On the right, there was a figure carved out of aluminium. Here stood a rolled up white sheet of paper. On the right there was a gray and blue photographic bath and in the foreground – a glass vessel tinted from the inside. The still life stood on a high wooden stand at eye level … He gave us a chance to make our first work on our own the way we understood it.”
The core of the propaedeutic discipline of Graphics was the course of graphic design on the plane surface, in which Rodchenko introduced to his students the idea of the line as an element that allows “to construct and create. For this purpose, at the first stage of work with students, he taught them to gradually move in the process of working with still life from the usual tone image through a contour drawing – to linear-constructive construction. Later, students immediately transferred still life from traditional objects to linear-constructive construction.
The core of “Graphic construction on a plane surface” propaedeutic discipline was an interconnected cycle of abstract assignments, which were developed by Rodchenko in 1921.
Rodchenko offered the students three series of assignments.
The first series
To create a composition from the simplest linear geometrical forms on a rectangular sheet of paper: a rectangle, a circle and a triangle (at complication of a task one or two elements are doubled) with their placing on a vertical, horizontal, diagonal, crosswise, on two diagonals, an angle (to the left, to the right, down or upwards) in a free form.
Solving compositional problems when changing the configuration of the painting surface.
Instead of a rectangle a field in the form of a rhombus, circle, triangle, ellipse is taken. To geometrical figures lines are added or all composition is constructed of freely located lines or limited by a circle of broken lines, or two pictorial planes partially entering one another.
The third series
Detection of spatial depth on the plane surface.
All the same geometric shapes are used but the number of elements in the composition increases. In this case, often only one (rectangle) or two types of geometric shapes (rectangle and circle, rectangle and triangle) are in a particular work. Depth is revealed either at the expense of colour difference of a contour of figures or at the expense of use of axonometric construction of rectangular planes, or at combination of both methods. Thus in the spatial aspect all the same compositional problems are solved: horizontal, vertical, diagonal, corner compositions.
The problem becomes more complicated when two shaped pictorial planes cut into each other and the spatial interaction of planar structures placed in them varies in composition.
These three series represent a consistent complication of tasks for the creation of abstract graphical linear constructions.
Based on VKhUTEMAS by S.O. Khan-Magomedov,
book 1, chapter Propaedeutic discipline by A Rodchenko
“Graphic construction on a plane surface” 160–168