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. The term Constructivism has frequently been used since the 1920s, in a looser fashion, to evoke a continuing tradition of geometric abstract art that is ‘constructed’ from autonomous visual elements such as lines and planes, and characterized by such qualities as precision, impersonality, a clear formal order, simplicity and economy of organization and the use of contemporary materials such as plastic and metal....
revised by Benjamin Benus
(b Innsbruck, 1917; d Milan, Dec 31, 2007).
Austrian architect and designer, active in Italy. He was the son of the architect Ettore Sottsass sr. Sottsass jr moved to Turin with his family at the age of 11 and qualified in architecture at the Politecnico, Turin, in 1939. Convinced of the role of colour as creator of space and as a means of breaking with the monochromatic preferences of the Rationalists, he developed a close relationship with avant-garde artists, organizing the first international exhibition of abstract art in Milan. His design for the Grassotti publicity stand (1948), an abstract composition of organic curves in laminated plywood, pays tribute to such Surrealist sculptors as Alexander Calder. In the early 1950s he concentrated on architecture. In the block of workers’ dwellings (1951), Romentino, Novara, he explored the relationship between architecture, terrain and climate, emphasizing the social function of spatial organization in encouraging community interaction. References to vernacular building types and the inclusion of traditional communal spaces, such as staircases and balconies, are also evident in later housing schemes at Arborea (...