Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatelstvo khudozhestvennoy literatury; Krasniy proletariy, 1931–1932. Item #1505
Original illustrated wrappers. Minimal restoration to the spines, loss of the lower fragment of the spine of issue #5–6, otherwise good.
Two issues of the important propaganda magazine. The periodical was founded in 1930 on the initiative and under the editorship of Maxim Gorky, intended as a monthly magazine dedicated to the review of events in the capitalist world. Altogether the 11 issues in this format were produced in 1930–1932. After issue 1–2 (1932) the periodical was transformed into a newspaper, which endured until Gorky’s death in 1938. The second editor Karel Radek was executed as well as Gorky’s successor, Mikhail Koltsov.
The magazine was not only the organ of satirical and publicist propaganda aimed at the West, but also became a platform for bold experiments in print design. Those experiments were associated with the names of Varvara Stepanova and her husband, A. Rodchenko, as well as a young female Jewish artist from Kiev, Ada Izrailevna Poberezhskaya (1905–1962).
The designer of issue #5–6 is not identified, and although it has a few interesting photomontages, the paper quality does not enable the reader to appreciate the design.
Nevertheless, the design of #1–2 is quite experimental and sophisticated so it is worth focusing on the magazine’s composition and its designer, Ada Poberezhskaya. This was the last issue of the periodical in this format before “Za Rubezhom” became a newspaper at which point its management ceased paying much attention to its design.
In this issue, Poberezhskaya attempts to combine the most popular and avant-garde means of illustration of the time into one organism: photo-chronicle and photomontage, satirical drawings and statistical data presented in IZOSTAT-like style.
IZOSTAT graphs, a method of statistical propaganda, were pioneered in Vienna in the 1920s and popularized in the USSR by the famous IZOSTAT institute. IZOSTAT revolutionized the visual presentation of otherwise dry statistical data. The most famous work of the institute was the album “Moscow reconstructing”, designed by Rodchenko (1938). There is no evidence that links Poberezhskaya to the work of the institute but the quality of the graphs suggests that she was familiar with the work of her colleagues there.
The photomontages bear the strong influence of Rodchenko and Stepanova, who separately designed several issues of the same periodical in 1930.
Poberezhskaya had evidently studied their work before designing this issue, but that is not to underestimate her own capacity to work as an independent montagist. A graduate of the Kiev Art School, she moved to Moscow in 1921 and worked as a designer for workers’ clubs and a few books in GIZ. She became a member of OST in 1925 and participated in exhibitions alongside Deineka, Vialov and Nikritin. In 1929 she was among the Soviet artists who participated in two exhibitions in Paris. Upon her return to Moscow she started the work as a theatre designer that became her main focus in later years.
By 1932 she thus had a lot of artistic experience to draw on in her attempt to combine so many of the techniques familiar to her from her work on stage decorations, and in clubs and book design. This was the only issue of the periodical Poberezhskaya designed.
The caricatures and satirical drawings she used were reprinted from western newspapers and magazines in order to underline the points made by the propaganda articles attacking the capitalist west. This could be regarded as yet another method of periodical design at that time, with drawings from different artists and publications combined in the layout in a certain manner, and then montaged into the spread much like photos.
It is also interesting how different the two issues are both in terms of the printing quality and the designer’s ideas. The issues are separated only by months and between them only one issue was published (#7–8 for 1931) and it’s also printed on the lower quality paper. This again demonstrates that for the so-called “thick periodicals” of the 1930s the designer was quite often assigned for one issue only and each issue should be regarded as an independent work of design.
Because of Radek’s involvement in the periodical, the issues in which he participated as editor were later taken out of circulation.