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Article

Christina Lodder

revised by Benjamin Benus

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....

Article

Ronald Alley

[Heinrich] (Ernst)

(b Leipzig, Sept 21, 1904; d Antibes, Dec 7, 1989).

French painter, draughtsman, printmaker and photographer of German birth. Early in his life he developed an interest in music, astronomy, philosophy and religion, but eventually above all in painting. His first enthusiasm was for the work of Rembrandt, then in 1921–2 for that of Lovis Corinth, Max Slevogt and the Expressionists, in particular Oskar Kokoschka and Emil Nolde. In 1922, before he knew anything about abstract art, he painted a series of completely abstract watercolours of a loose, non-formal kind, followed in 1923–4 by a number of abstract drawings in charcoal and chalk, for example Scène goyesque III (see exh. cat., no. 14). In 1924 he became a student of both philosophy and art history at Leipzig University and of painting at the Kunstakademie, and was present in 1925 at a lecture by Vasily Kandinsky, his first contact with the abstract movement. Although he was advised to study at the Bauhaus, he chose instead to go to the Kunstakademie in Dresden, where the teaching followed traditional lines. At the Internationale Kunstausstellung in Dresden in ...

Article

[Alexander] (Mikhaylovich)

(b St Petersburg, Nov 23, 1891; d Moscow, Dec 3, 1956).

Russian painter, sculptor, designer and photographer. He was a central exponent of Russian Constructivism, owing much to the pre-Revolutionary work of Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin, and he was closely involved in the cultural debates and experiments that followed the Revolution of 1917. In 1921 he denounced, on ideological grounds, easel painting and fine art, and he became an exponent of Productivism (see Constructivism, §1) in many fields, including poster design, furniture, photography and film. He resumed painting in his later years. His work was characterized by the systematic way in which from 1916 he sought to reject the conventional roles of self-expression, personal handling of the medium and tasteful or aesthetic predilections. His early nihilism and condemnation of the concept of art make it problematic even to refer to Rodchenko as an artist: in this respect his development was comparable to that of Dada, although it also had roots in the anarchic activities of Russian Futurist groups....