Flirting with Rodchenko
In 1921, Russian avant-garde artist Alexander Rodchenko executed what were arguably the first true monochromes (artworks of one color), and proclaimed “I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue, and yellow. I affirmed: this is the end of painting.” For artists of the Russian Revolution, Rodchenko’s radical action was full of utopian possibility. It marked the end of easel painting-perhaps even the end of art-along with the end of bourgeois norms and practices. It cleared the way for the beginnings of a new Russian life, a new mode of production, a new culture. Through the repetition by contemporary artists of Rodchenko’s gesture, monochrome’s extreme nature was fully analyzed and made meaningful. Whether represented by paintings, drawings, prints, or sculpture, the contemporary artists represented in “Flirting with Rodchenko” stopped short of making pure monochromes, thereby flirting with its concepts. Anne Appleby, Sue Arrowsmith, Fandra Chang, Annette Lemieux, Sol LeWitt, Florence Pierce, and Richard Tuttle creatively repeated, varied, differentiated, and held in productive tension monochrome painting’s contradictory poles: both the death of art and its resuscitation.