Introduction to Supremitisim & Constructivist Art

Design of the early 20th century.

Written task based on a visit to the IMMA September 25th 2015.

The Artist & The State

An exhibition of the works of El Lissitsky

Cultural & Social Context

Being born at the turn of the 19th century I believe El Lissitzky was a product of his time. Raised & educated at a time when his country was in political & cultural flux. The ideas & beliefs of the art community in their ability to usher change unto the world through their art influenced him greatly & lead him down a path that would see him very literally in the Avant Garde.

Heavily influenced by his colleague Malevich, Lissitzky was fully involved in many disciplines such as education, architecture & exhibitions.

After seeing a production of Victory Over the Sun, Lissitzky was inspired to recreate figures of the opera’s main protagonists as suprematist automatons. The movements of figures are suggested by using shifting axes, multiple perspectives and directional signifiers. (Source: data is nature.)

New_Man
New Man – El Lissitzky

This image, shows one of the principle characters, New Man, a dynamic configuration of geometric shapes, lines & strong colours.

For me this piece could have been done at any time up to the present day, its futurisim & animation seemingly withstanding the test of time and it retains an energy that you would expect would make it leap from the wall.

 

 

 

Lissitzky’s piece, Street Celebration, is wonderful in that it brings together and shows his passion for a number of different fields. Design, Architecture & photography.

Street Celebration
Street Celebration – El Lissitzky

In this montage the artist shows a number of designs placed in-situ on the façade of a building, suggesting perhaps the embracing of the new social & political environment through public display’s of Avant Garde art. Lissitzky believed that art and life could mesh and that the former could deeply affect the latter. He identified the graphic arts, particularly posters and books, and architecture as effective conduits for reaching the public. Consequently, his designs, whether for graphic productions or buildings, were often unfiltered political messages. Despite being comprised of rudimentary shapes and colors, a poster by Lissitzky could make a strong statement for political change and a building could evoke ideas of communality and egalitarianism. (Source: The Art Story.org)

Through his carreer El Lissitzky continued to both learn & educate, teaching from the age of 15 and continuing through most of his life. While spending time as a cultural ambassador in Germany he spent some time working with and influencing important figures of the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements. Obviously utilising his talents as an accomplished polemicist or debater to their fullest.

Red Alert – Hito Steyerl

In September 1921, five Constructivist artists–Rodchenko and Stepanova, together with Aleksandra Ekster, Liubov Popova, and Aleksandr Vesnin–each contributed five works to the first part of a two-part exhibition in Moscow, titled 5×5=25. Rodchenko exhibited paintings titled Line and Cell, plus three monochrome canvases dated 1921: Pure Red Color, Pure Blue Color, and Pure Yellow Color. 

3 Colours, Red Yellow, Blue
3 Colours, Red Yellow, Blue

Years later he recalled:
I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue and yellow. I affirmed: it’s all over.
Basic colors. Every plane is a plane and there is to be no representation.

Distilling the art of painting into the primary colours from which all others can be made, the triptych realized a key imperative of modernist art: to pursue formal investigation to its logical end. In the eyes of Rodchenko and his fellow Constructivists this sweeping gesture had political as well as artistic significance, for his renunciation of painting put into action the words of his colleague Nikolai Tarabukin: “Current social circumstances dictate new forms of art.” Having enacted the death of the old forms, Rodchenko embarked on an adventurous quest for new ones. (Source: MOMA NY)
This work by Rodchenko was to inspire the work of future artists including that of Hito Steyerl who in 2007 created her piece Red Alert.

Three vertically-oriented monitors each show the same solid red shade. The monochrome three-screen film provides a humorous “new-media” take on Alexander Rodchenko’s triptych of painting from 1921. Also referencing the terror alert system introduced by Homeland Security in the wake of 9/11, Red Alert signifies, in Steyerl’s words, “the end of politics as such (end of history, advent of liberal democracy) and at the same time an era of ‘pure feeling’ that is heavily policed.” (Source: The Artists Space)

 

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