Michael Prodger at The New Statesman:
To celebrate the opening of the Sochi Olympics, the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, is staging “The Russian Avant-Garde and Sport”, an exhibition that shows just how close beneath the skin of sport politics has always been in Russia. It is a largely photographic show, because most Soviet artists regarded the camera as a truer implement of the machine age than paint and canvas. This was particularly true of Rodchenko, whose monochrome triptych in 1921 – squares of red, blue and yellow – represented, he thought, the end-point of painting: “It’s all over,” he said.
Having a camera in his hand did not, however, change his aesthetic. If, as a painter, his art involved the careful placing of geometrical shapes in space, then he looked for the same things through the viewfinder. Sport, with its bodily distortions and rapid spatial changes, provided the perfect subjects. He took his pictures from unusual angles and made a diver in mid-air, an athlete spinning off the high bar or a runner crossing the track’s grid of lanes into unfamiliar shapes in a void rather than recognisable bodies in motion. Rodchenko believed that art should be a part of everyday life but that didn’t mean he wanted it necessarily to resemble everyday life. His innovations have become sporting photography’s commonplaces.