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PRINT October 1977

Back to the Material: Rodchenko’s Photographic Ideology

AT MOSCOW IN SEPTEMBER 1921, Rodchenko exhibited his three “last paintings” (Tarabukin), each in monochrome: Pure Red, Pure Yellow and Pure Blue. With these works even more than with Malevich’s White on White canvases of 1918, Russian nonobjective art came full circle in its evolution.

The problem of representation in the plastic arts had haunted creative minds, and the artists now believed they had attained at least one of its limits, if not the ultimate one. The crisis of finalities that this momentary impasse in plastic expression generated was reflected in one of the most violent shocks that the history of painting has known: an entire generation of creators thought that the transcendence of pictorial practice had been definitively achieved.1 Thus Malevich could declare in 1920 that painting was “out of date,” considering the painter “a prejudice of the past”—a statement that announced

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