Left: Valentina Kulagina, Female Shock-workers Strengthen the Shock Brigades, Master Technology, and Increase the Ranks of the Proletarian Specialists, 1931, lithograph, 39 3/8 x 28 5/16“. Right: Gustav Klutsis, design for a postcard for the All-Union Olympiad (Spartakiada), Moscow, 1928, photographs, paper, and gouache on paper, 8 x 5 1/2”.

Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina

International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

Through the course of the Bolshevik 1920s and Stalinist 1930s, the pioneering Soviet photomonteurs Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina produced some of the most terrible—in the old-fashioned sense of the word—examples of visual propaganda ever executed in the service of modern state power. Eventually supported almost exclusively by the administrative organs and centralized publishing houses of a one-party state, their often overlapping, but also sometimes diverging, design practices were directly dependent on the ever-shifting exigencies of their historical context. Unlike that of many of their contemporaries, however, the work of Klutsis and Kulagina has also managed to transcend the grim and gritty details of its historical formation—no doubt owing in part to its sheerly compelling nature qua modern design and to our alternatively lurid and utopian fascination with its construction of

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