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Spotlight Artist: Russian Constructivism- El Lissitzky, Rodchenko, and Tatlin

April 12, 2018

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

Constructivism was the last and most influential modern art movement to flourish in Russia in the 20th century. It evolved just as the Bolsheviks came to power in the October Revolution of 1917, and initially it acted as a lightning rod for the hopes and ideas of many of the most advanced Russian artists who supported the revolution's goals. It borrowed ideas from Cubism, Suprematism and Futurism, but at its heart was an entirely new approach to making objects, one which sought to abolish the traditional artistic concern with composition, and replace it with 'construction.' Constructivism called for a careful technical analysis of modern materials, and it was hoped that this investigation would eventually yield ideas that could be put to use in mass production, serving the ends of a modern, Communist society. Ultimately, however, the movement floundered in trying to make the transition from the artist's studio to the factory. Some continued to insist on the value of abstract, analytical work, and the value of art per se; these artists had a major impact on spreading Constructivism throughout Europe. Others, meanwhile, pushed on to a new but short-lived and disappointing phase known as Productivism, in which artists worked in industry. Russian Constructivism was in decline by the mid 1920s, partly a victim of the Bolshevik regime's increasing hostility to avant-garde art. But it would continue to be an inspiration for artists in the West, sustaining a movement called International Constructivism which flourished in Germany in the 1920s, and whose legacy endured into the 1950s.

(from http://www.theartstory.org/movement-constructivism.htm)

 

In 1923, a manifesto was published in their magazine Lef:

The material formation of the object is to be substituted for its aesthetic combination. The object is to be treated as a whole and thus will be of no discernible ‘style’ but simply a product of an industrial order like a car, an aeroplane and such like. Constructivism is a purely technical mastery and organisation of materials.

Constructivism was suppressed in Russia in the 1920s but was brought to the West by Naum Gabo and his brother Antoine Pevsner and has been a major influence on modern sculpture.

 

Key Characteristics

  • Non-objective

  • Simple planar linear forms

  • Dynamic compositions

  • Minimization of space = FLAT

  • Modern materials

Key Ideas

  • Believed art and design should be absorbed into industrial production.

  • The artist was a worker and responsible for designing functional objects in service of the Soviet state.

  • Some believed that art had an important role in the structure of life and was an indispensible means of expressing human experience.

Links

 

Essential Questions

  • What is the difference between Constructivism and Futurism?

  • Are the visual characteristics of Constructivism truly universal?

  • How does the political and social events happening in Russia influence Constructivism?

 

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