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Culture:Russian, Soviet (established 1920-1930)
Title:Isaak Rabinovich at the Maquette of the Martian City for the Set of the Film “Aelita” (1924)
Date Made:1923-1924
Materials:vintage gelatin silver print
Place Made:Europe; Soviet Union; Russia; Moscow
Measurements:Sheet/Image: 8 9/16 x 5 1/4 in; 21.7 x 13.3 cm
Narrative Inscription:  in pencil verso: "0(1)-48-10"; (translated from Cyrillic) "I. Rabinovich, Artist at the maquette of the city for the film 'Aelita', 1923-1924"; "Rabinovich" (indicates Rabinovich archive)
Accession Number:  AC 2021.85
Credit Line:Purchase with Amherst Whitney Collection of Russian Art Fund
Museum Collection:  Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

Label Text:
In this photograph, Isaak Rabinovich appears intently focused on an abstract structure of spindly wooden and metal beams, his design for Yakov Protazanov's silent film “Aelita: Queen of Mars” (1924). Rabinovich, a student and later teacher at the VKhUTEMAS, designed this set in collaboration with Alexandra Exter, a celebrated representative of the avant-garde art movement. In the decades that followed the production, Rabinovich had an illustrious career as a set designer, ultimately serving as the chief designer at the esteemed Vakhtangov Theater from 1955 onward.

In “Aelita”, Los, the young engineer from Earth, frees the workers of Mars through Bolshevik ideas, only to realize his space journey was but a dream. Abstract forms and simplified geometrics abound throughout the film, particularly in its conception of Martian society. For example, Aelita, the queen of Mars, gazes upon happenings on Earth through a series of glass triangles floating on the same axis. In a technical display, the triangles enfold together, forming a crystalline, origami-like structure. Despite engaging in a fragmentary dreamscape—full of projections and intrigue—“Aelita” provides a stunning glimpse into popular Soviet cinema of the 1920s.

Julia Molin, 2023

photographs; sculpture; design; models and modelmaking; artists; working

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