Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg: Construction for a Spatial Structure VI ('KPS6', 1919/73)

Institute exhibition
22nd January 2014 - 20th April 2014
Gallery 4

Photographer unknown
The Second Spring Exhibition of OBMOKhU. Constructions by A.Rodchenko, K.Medunetsky, K.Ioganson, G.Stenberg and V.Stenberg.
Moscow, 1921
Exhibition print

Courtesy The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

The Moscow-born, Russian-Swedish brothers Vladimir (1899-1982) and Georgii (1900-33) Stenberg are central figures of the early Russian Constructivist movement, characterised by a laboratory style of working that placed the 'artist-producer' within everyday activities. As former students of Moscow's Stroganov School of Applied Arts and members of the Institute of Artistic Culture (INKhUK), they were at the heart of debates surrounding the role of the artist in society.

The Stenbergs were trained engineers specialising in railway structures and bridges, and collaborated between 1917 and 1933 on designing functional structures, that included car factories, highways and workers' clubs. They are mostly known, however, for their graphic design, film posters, theatre scenography and designs for mass celebrations in Moscow's Red Square. In distinction, Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg: Construction for a Spatial Structure VI ('KPS6', 1919/73) focuses on their lesser-known three-dimensional work.

At the centre of this display is 'KPS6', a 1973 reconstruction of a sculpture originally made in 1919. The title's acronym stands for Konstruktsiya Prostranstvennogo Sooruzheniya (Construction for a Spatial Structure), an abbreviation the Stenbergs would use to name similar works made in iron, steel, glass and wood. While seemingly abstract, these geometric constructions were in reality a continuation of the Stenberg's interest in engineering and technology, and may be considered as experimental proposals for buildings. The reconstruction of 'KPS6' was overseen by the French-Bulgarian art historian Andrei B. Nakov (b. 1941) by carefully referencing drawings and photographs showing exhibition installation views. 'KPS6' is presented alongside a precise architectural sketch for the sculpture's reconstruction made by Vladimir Stenberg in 1973.

The Stenbergs were among the founding members of The Society of Young Artists (Obshchestvo molodykh khudozhnikov, abbreviated as OBMOKhU), a group of students who collaborated on producing posters for revolutionary festivals across Soviet Russia. The second annual OMBOKhU exhibition of May 1921 included a number of 'KPS' sculptures by the Stenbergs, which can be seen in a photograph presented within this display. 'KPS6' was not part of this particular exhibition, but was exhibited in January 1922 at Moscow's Kafe Poetov, where thirty-one works by the Stenbergs were shown alongside works by Konstantin Medunetskii (1899-1935), a fellow member of OBMOKhU. Unfortunately no photographs of this exhibition survive; however a manifesto published on its occasion clearly affirms the Stenbergs' view that their art was utilitarian and not merely for its own purposes.

Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg: Construction for a Spatial Structure VI ('KPS6', 1919/73) examines the relationship between the original sculpture and its copy, while paying attention to the role photography plays in the distribution of sculptures and communication of exhibitions of sculpture - one of our key research strands. Until 16 February 2014, Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg: Construction for a Spatial Structure VI ('KPS6', 1919/73) is paired with Dennis Oppenheim: Thought Collision Factories in Galleries 1, 2 & 3 and Stephen Cripps: Pyrotechnic Sculptor in the Upper Sculpture Study Gallery. From 20 March 2014, this display sits alongside Ian Kiaer: Tooth House in Galleries 1, 2 & 3 which presents new sculptures by British artist Ian Kiaer (b. 1971) which draw upon the work of the Austrian architect and exhibition designer Frederick Kiesler (1890-1965), an avant-garde contemporary of the Stenbergs.