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The Russian Constructivism was an aesthetic-political movement started


from 1919 in the context of avant-garde movements in Russia, with a strong
influence on Western art, design and architecture and is placed in the
context of European avant-garde aesthetic of the early twentieth century.
The movement denied a “pure art” and abolished the idea that art is
separated from the everyday world. Inspired by new achievements of the
Workers’ State, the art should be inspired by the new prospects opened up
by machines and industrialization. At the same time, Art should serve social
goals of Russia and build the new socialist world. The term Constructivist art
was first introduced by Malevich to describe the work of Rodchenko in 1917
and the movement, lasted until 1934 in the Soviet Union, it’s strongly
convictions influenced all modern art.

In the Writers ´Congress of 1934 the only art movement allowed in the
Soviet Union was the Socialist Realism; all other artistic trends would be
considered formalist during the Stalinism. Generic characterized by the use
of geometric elements, collage, sans serif typography, simple and primary
colors. Much of Russian avant-garde manifestations are influenced by
Constructivism, as well as the Suprematism, Bauhaus and other similar
movements. Other artistic areas were also influenced; Eisenstein and its
theories about film editing changed the viewing of regular movie making. In
the theater, one of the biggest names: the stage director Meierhold.

Political and historical context

“A Constructivist art more than decoration, it organizes life” El Lissitzky

Constructivism was an artistic movement strongly influenced by Marxism


and closely linked to the revolutionary process initiated in the USSR and in
Germany. No other movement have had such expression in the
revolutionary reality or placed so explicitly the social function of art as an
expression of socialism. The constructivist artist was convinced that could
help overcome the intellectual and physical needs of society. Art becomes
the main instrument for the social change, rebuilding the new way of life
and “revolutionizing” the people´s conscience. The Constructivism wants to
systematize and organize the feelings of the revolutionary proletariat, it
doesn´t want turns the art in a political movement, but begin the
socialization of art.

In 1915, the Suprematism of Malevich and Constructivism of Tatlin were


the two major currents of Russian art, both fallowing the ideological and
revolutionary vanguard movement led by Mayakovsky and officially
supported by Lunacharsky, the commissioner for Lenin´s Education
Government. Considered the first constructivist manifesto the Realist
Manifesto1, written by Naum Gabo and his brother Antoine Pevsner in 1920,
defined the limits and possibilities of non-figurative art, but those
possibilities were against the metaphysical ideas of Malevich. Posted on the
walls of Moscow during the first uprising of political revolution for the civil
war, the Realist Manifesto had major repercussions. From it many manifests
with the same social question, were announced.

In 1921, with the New Economic Policy of Lenin (NEP), the use of the
Constructivism was seriously questioned. Then, with the death of
Lunacharsky2, the new Stalinist Government reduced art to a politic
instrument, used for political propaganda and to promote his cultural
activities changing the Constructivism to Socialist Realism. The vanguard
was forbidden and repressed; academic standards of the nineteenth century
realism, were recovered.

The Aesthetic Concept

Russians were prepared to throw himself towards a non-figurative art,


stimulated by Futurism, Constructivism separates himself from cubist

2
painting and sculpture. Despite several controversies, the artistic guide-lines
and philosophies had been written in Moscow, the discussion around
philosophies and artistic projects, was opened.

On one hand, were those who believed that the artists should have an
active role serving the masses, trying to understand the needs of
proletariat, using industrial techniques and materials. This position was
represented by Tatlin, El Lissitzki and Rodchenko.

On the other hand, were those who saw non-figurative art as pure poetry,
free from any ideology , as Malevich supported by the Pevsner brothers.

This opposition comes from the very definition of constructivism that for
some is a geometric non- mimetic art permeating thus Tatlin, Malevich,
Gabo, Kandinsky, by the fact that they all use the features of geometric art.
In opposition, were those who speak of constructivism as purely
technological art, strictly subject to the imperatives of material and object,
an anticipation of Design. Apparently, Constructivism was a plural
movement: Several artists from different currents who were valuating the
construction of the artwork instead of composition.

None of the Russian artists in the period between 1917 ad 1921 were left
out of social and political events. Thus we see that the criteria were less
aesthetic than social, since art set itself the task to organize daily life, not to
decorate it, the easel painting is therefore abolished, soughing the
production of socially useful objects. Based on this assumption, the
constructivist artist believed that a new world was born, and artist should
take his place alongside the scientist and the engineer. Constructivism is a
trend line to a useful art, to interpret this “utility” note the characteristics of
constructivism: the quest for the engineering technique, new materials
being applied, the tendency for design and architecture, the preference for
collective activity opposed to individualism, the concept of objects
perceived as syntheses, pushing the limits of sculpture and painting, among
others. The Constructivist artists praised the simple geometric forms and
viewed areas of uniform pure colors; a new objectivity with new forms and
meanings. They believed that the materialistic direction of his works would
unveil the innate qualities and expressiveness of materials. To Tatlin, a
leading artist of the movement, art should serve the revolution; create
things to the people´s daily life. Painting and sculpture are also non-
representative constructions, so should be used the same materials and
technical procedures of architecture, with should be both functional and
visual. Therefore there’s no major and minor arts: as a visual form, a chair is
no different from sculpture, because sculpture should be functional as a
chair.