Alexander Rodchenko immortalized Lilya Brik in an iconic 1924 portrait for the cover of a Soviet art magazine. She is again Rodchenko’s subject in an exhibition of photographs on display at the Multimedia Art Museum, which show a never-completed 1929 journey Brik made in a Renault that the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky sent to her from France.
Brik was Mayakovsky’s muse, and the pair had a famous and passionate love affair, despite her marriage to Oleg Brik. Mayakovsky dedicated many of his most famous poems to her, such as “Lilechka! Instead of a Letter,” in which he wrote, “besides your love I have no sun.” A portrait of Brik, eyes staring intensely, is on the cover of his poem “Pro Eto” (About This).
The pair were no longer a couple in 1929, but remained on good terms. Brik had written to Mayakovsky with instructions of what kind of car she wanted: a Buick or a Renault, definitely not one that looked like a taxi. She also asked for motorist’s gloves and clothes.
“Her enthusiasm for the ‘Renoshka’ was unconditional and true to character,” said curator Alexander Lavrentiyev, using the diminutive term for the Renault. Rodchenko captures moments such as Brik taking advantage of a f lat tire to fix her makeup, and an impromptu picnic.
“I was in one dress, then I got changed and popped into the gas station on Zemlyanoi Val. He took a photo of me in the backseat,” Brik wrote of the trip she and Mayakovsky later nicknamed “the incomplete journey.” “We agreed that I would go 20 versts, he would take photos and then go home, and I would go on further. But I didn’t go any further, as I found out the road was terrible and the car started to sneeze and, well, going so far alone is boring and dangerous.”
This brief glimpse of Brik is on at the same time as a more substantial exhibit, “Mayakovsky’s Family,” dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the poet’s birthday.