Architecture in Print: Design and Debate in the Soviet Union, 1919–1935 — Selections from the Collection of Stephen Garmey

April 19–June 11, 2005

In the early 20th century, the Soviet architectural press became a forum for an extraordinary group of artists, designers, architects, and theorists to converge in debate over the shape of their present and future built environment. The visually stunning and rhetorically innovative publications include major contributions by many the most brilliant artists and graphic designers of the Russian and Soviet avant-garde: Aleksei Gan, Gustav Klutsis, El Lissitzky, Aleksandr Rodchenko, the Stenberg brothers, Varvara Stepanova, and Solomon Telingater. Moreover, magazines such as Sovremennaia arkhitekura (Contemporary Architecture) and Stroitel'stvo Moskvy (Construction of Moscow) were the primary sites on which many of the most important architects of the period—Moisei Ginzburg, Ivan Leonidov, Konstantin Melnikov, and the Vesnin brothers—developed their ideas and projects.

As primary artifacts of a turbulent phase of architectural history, the journals, magazines, books and related ephemera gathered in this exhibition provide an opportunity to focus in unprecedented depth on the Soviet architectural press as an actively evolving field, defined by tense and shifting syntheses of avant-garde design and political debate. The relation between the architectural press and the broader field of print media not only reveals the centrality of architectural and constructivist imagery in early Soviet culture but also demonstrates the role of the press in the building of socialism.

The extensive private collection of Stephen Garmey, which served as the primary resource for the curator's research, is the source of most objects in the exhibition. The rich special collections of Columbia University Libraries, specifically the Avery Art and Architectural Library and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, have provided supplementary materials.

Richard Anderson and Kristin Romberg, both Columbia University doctoral candidates in art history are the co-curators of the exhibition and primary authors of the catalogue. Richard Anderson's essay, "The Journal States its Aims: Partisanship and the Party Line in the Soviet Architectural Press," concerns the material, cultural, and typographic production of three major Soviet architectural periodicals. Kristin Romberg in "From Veshch' to SA: Journal as Object" examines the tensions between autonomous art object and mass medium that are inherent in the evolution of the Soviet avant-garde journal as a form. The catalogue also contains a short introduction by Jean-Louis Cohen, the Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; a collector's statement by Stephen Garmey; and a comprehensive exhibition checklist. The 86-page book is illustrated with 80 color photographs and 16 black-and-white images.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the gallery will host a lecture by Jean-Louis Cohen on Wednesday, Aprli 27 at 6 p.m; and a gallery talk with Richard Anderson and Kristin Romberg including a conversation with the collector Stephen Garmey on Thursday, May 5 at 6 p.m.