Constructivism 1919 – 1932

Avant-garde tendency in 20th-century painting, sculpture, photography, design and architecture, with associated developments in literature, theatre and film The term was first coined by artists in Russia in early 1921 and achieved wide international currency in the 1920s Russian Constructivism refers specifically to a group of artists who sought to move beyond the autonomous art object, extending the formal language of abstract art into practical design work This development was prompted by the utopian climate following the October Revolution of 1917, which led artists to seek to create a new visual environment, embodying the social needs and values of the new Communist order The concept of International Constructivism defines a broader current in European art, most vital from around 1922 until the end of the 1920s, that was centred primarily in Central and Eastern Europe International Constructivists were inspired by the Russian example, both artistically and politically They continued, however, to work in the traditional artistic media of painting and sculpture, while also experimenting with film and photography and recognizing the potential of the new formal language for utilitarian design

Constructivism was an artistic and architectural philosophy that originated in Russia beginning in 1913 by Vladimir Tatlin This was a rejection of the idea of autonomous art He wanted ‘to construct’ art The movement was in favour of art as a practice for social purposes Constructivism had a great effect on modern art movements of the 20th century, influencing major trends such as the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements Its influence was pervasive, with major effects upon architecture, graphic design, industrial design, theatre, film, dance, fashion and to some extent music

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The term Construction Art was first used as a derisive term by Kazimir Malevich to describe the work of Alexander Rodchenko in 1917[citation needed] Constructivism first appears as a positive term in Naum Gabo’s Realistic Manifesto of 1920 Aleksei Gan used the word as the title of his book Constructivism, printed in 1922 Constructivism was a post-World War I development of Russian Futurism, and particularly of the ‘counter reliefs’ of Vladimir Tatlin, which had been exhibited in 1915 The term itself would be invented by the sculptors Antoine Pevsner and Naum Gabo, who developed an industrial, angular style of work, while its geometric abstraction owed something to the Suprematism of Kazimir Malevich

The Constructivists were early developers of the techniques of photomontage Gustav Klutsis’ ‘Dynamic City’ and ‘Lenin and Electrification’ (1919–20) are the first examples of this method of montage, which had in common with Dadaism the collaging together of news photographs and painted sections However Constructivist montages would be less ‘destructive’ than those of Dadaism Perhaps the most famous of these montages was Rodchenko’s illustrations of the Mayakovsky poem About This

The book designs of Rodchenko, El Lissitzky and others such as Solomon Telingater and Anton Lavinsky were a major inspiration for the work of radical designers in the West, particularly Jan Tschichold Many Constructivists worked on the design of posters for everything from cinema to political propaganda: the former represented best by the brightly coloured, geometric posters of the Stenberg brothers (Georgii and Vladimir Stenberg), and the latter by the agitational photomontage work of Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina

Constructivist architecture emerged from the wider constructivist art movement After the Russian Revolution of 1917 it turned its attentions to the new social demands and industrial tasks required of the new regime Two distinct threads emerged, the first was encapsulated in Antoine Pevsner’s and Naum Gabo’s Realist manifesto which was concerned with space and rhythm, the second represented a struggle within the Commissariat for Enlightenment between those who argued for pure art and the Productivists such as Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova and Vladimir Tatlin, a more socially oriented group who wanted this art to be absorbed in industrial production