Sunday, August 12, 2007

eBay Find of the Day: Agitprop Art

When my family and I visited London this past spring, we spent the better part of a day at the amazing Tate Modern. At the time, the museum was hosting an exhibit on Constructivist art featuring the propaganda posters of Aleksandr Rodchenko and others that profligated after the Bolshevik Revolution.

I didn't know much about Constructivism -- or about Russian history, for that matter -- but I was instantly struck by the futuristic feel, bold graphics, and vibrant color (namely red, of course) of these images, which eschewed art simply for art's sake in favor of art in service of the nation's social welfare.

The result was posters extolling Bolshie leaders like Vladimir Lenin, above, urging factory workers to be more productive, and admonishing Soviet countrywomen to "keep your tongue behind your teeth," below -- and thus presumably not blab state secrets (that's one I ought to post near my telephone ... ).

Today, original examples of this agitprop art command hundreds and even thousands of dollars on the open market (oh, the irony for us members of the cash-strapped proletariat ... ). But you can find good-quality reproductions for a fraction of that by surfing around in eBay's Military and Political Art and Russian Collectibles categories.

The striking giclee print of a 1931 propaganda poster at top, for instance, is rendered on heavyweight archival paper and measures 20 by 29 inches. Roughly translated, it reads "Smite the Lazy Worker!" Snap it up and hang it near your home work station for a bit of tongue-in-cheek motivation on those days when you're not feeling terribly industrious. After all, it's for the greater good.

Current bid: $15.

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