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  • Varvara Stepanova The Red Room 1920

    Varvara Stepanova
    The Red Room 1920

    Ivanovo Regional Art Museum
    © A. Rodchenko & V. Stepanova Archive / DACS 2009

  • Alexander Rodchenko Pure Blue Colour 1921

    Alexander Rodchenko
    Pure Blue Colour 1921

    Ivanovo Regional Art Museum
    © A. Rodchenko & V. Stepanova Archive / DACS 2009

  • Alexander Rodchenko Pure Red Colour 1921

    Alexander Rodchenko
    Pure Red Colour 1921

    © A. Rodchenko & V. Stepanova Archive / DACS 2009

  • Alexander Rodchenko Pure Yellow Colour 1921

    Alexander Rodchenko
    Pure Yellow Colour 1921

    © A. Rodchenko & V. Stepanova Archive / DACS 2009

The two-part exhibition 5 x 5 = 25, which opened in Moscow in September 1921, was intended as a farewell to painting. Rodchenko and Popova and fellow artists Varvara Stepanova, Aleksandr Vesnin and Aleksandra Exter each exhibited five paintings. They also contributed statements and five covers each to 25 hand-made catalogues.

Not all of the paintings can be identified with certainty, but they included Popova’s Space-Force Construction no.80 1921, which combines a network of impersonal ruler-drawn lines with softer, more painterly triangles among the sharp angles. The works that drew most attention, however, were Rodchenko’s triptych Pure Red Colour, Pure Yellow Colour, Pure Blue Colour 1921. As he later described these works, ‘I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue and yellow. I affirmed: it’s over. Basic colours. Every plane is a plane and there is to be no representation.’ The painting is presented as a single physical object, with raw colour as its essential material.