Recent Acquisition: Gustav Klutsis

Gustav Klutsis, [Postcard for the Spartakiada (All-Union Olympiad), Moscow], 1928

As the world revels in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the International Center of Photography celebrates the acquisition of an extraordinary set of photomontage postcards that commemorate another earlier international sporting event. In 1928, just a decade after Russian Revolution, the Soviet government launched the Spartakiada, a kind of proletarian Olympics intended to demonstrate physical and political superiority and planned as a counterweight to the official 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. The Supreme Council of Physical Culture commissioned avant-garde artist Gustav Klutsis (1895-1938) to design promotional materials and mailers for the games. Klutsis immediately set to work creating nine color postcards, one for each sport, including diving, equestrian events, and motorcycle racing—and they are each tiny masterpieces of modernist design. Abstract circles and diagonals and bold blocks of color combine with dynamic and repeated cut-out photographs of athletes at various scales to create vibrant visual effects. Klutsis even added little portraits of the late Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin to link the sporting activities to the achievements of the state—a point underscored by the propagandistic slogans, such as “Love live the unity of the worker sportsmen of all countries!” Even amid today’s flashy high-speed communications, these early cut-and-paste efforts to promote the Soviet Olympics are true game-changers.

This entry was posted in Fans in a Flashbulb and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s