Kiev-Kharkiv: "LIteratura i iskusstvo", 1934. Octavo (17.8 × 13 cm). Original decorative wrappers; 167,  pp. Illustrated from photographs throughout. Lacking the pictorial dust-jacket. Wrappers somewhat worn and creased; lightly toned; still about very good.
First edition. An eye-witness account of travels to the arctic circle on the Soviet icebreaker “Krasin”, with a constructivist-inspired design by one of the key figures of the Ukrainian avant-garde, Vasily Ermilov (Vasyl Yermilov; 1894-1968). Part travelogue, the collection was based on an actual journey the writer Iakov Kal'nitskii (1895-1949) took in 1933. Author of travelogues and science fiction, Kal'nitskii was arrested in 1938, with many of his books censored and removed from libraries, making them especially scarce. The wrapper designer Vasily Ermilov was a Constructivist painter, graphic artist, stage set and type designer, as well as creator of street furniture and immersive environments such as the first Soviet House of the Pioneers (Kharkiv,1934) and the Ukrainian pavilion at VDNKh (Moscow, 1937). For his artistic brilliance and later professional persecution, he has been variously dubbed the “Kharkiv Picasso” and the “Ukrainian Job”. Ermilov studied decorative and applied arts in his native Kharkiv, and later at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, alongside futurist artists such as Vladimir Mayakovsky and David Buliuk. During the Russian Civil War, Ermilov worked on the famous propaganda project UkROSTA (1920), and created murals for the agitational train “Red Ukraine” (1921) which traveled with films and lectures to the Ukrainian provinces. In addition to these large-scale projects, in 1921 Ermilov collaborated with the futurist poet Velimir Khlebnikov on his book “Ladomir”. The mechanical flower, Ermilov’s signature design which combined folk motifs with cubo-futurist elements, appeared both on the agit-train murals and on the cover of Khlebnikov’s poem. Some of Ermilov’s most celebrated cover designs were done for “Avanhard” (1928-1929), a Constructivist journal of the eponymous group founded by the poet Valeriian Polishchuk. The closure of the journal in 1929 marked the beginning of a long period of professional decline for Ermilov, which included the censorship and destruction of a monograph about the artist in 1934 (written by Valeriian Polishchuk in 1931), his removal from his teaching post and eventual expulsion from the Artist’s Union in 1949. His rehabilitation in the 1960s, included a solo exhibition (1962) where his most interesting works from the Constructivist period were not shown. In 1971, shortly after Ermilov’s death, a fire in his former studio destroyed many of his works from the 1920s as well as most of his archive. Ermilov’s work survived primarily in Western collections (Ludwig Collection, MoMa), with his book designs being especially rare. Ermilov is credited on the colophon of this work. His design is most notable in the contrast between the lettered cover and the use of red and white in the first few pages and the table of contents.
Rare; as of October 2021, KVK, OCLC show no copies worldwide, only one copy of the 1935 second edition in Germany.
Book ID: 51669