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Article

Ewa Mikina

[Pol. artysci rewolucyjni: ‘revolutionary artists’]

Polish group of avant-garde artists that flourished between 1929 and 1936. Its members were the sculptor Katarzyna Kobro, the painters Władysław Strzemiński and Henryk Stażewski, and the poets J. Brzękowski and J. Przyboś. It was founded by Strzemiński after he, Kobro and Stażewski left the Praesens group. The group’s programme chiefly reflected the views of Strzemiński. In two leaflets entitled Kommunikaty a.r. (‘a.r. bulletins’) the group declared itself in favour of a ‘laboratory’ version of Constructivism and an avant-garde art that influenced social life in an indirect and gradual manner. It opposed the politicization and popularization of art, which it regarded as a debasement of artistic expression, but the group also believed that rigorous, formal discipline, the organic construction of a work, its coherence, effectiveness and economy of means, made art somewhat synthetic or contrived. From 1933 the group’s announcements regarding its programme appeared in the Łódź art magazine Forma...

Article

John Milner

[Rus. agitatsionnaya propaganda: ‘agitational propaganda’]

Russian acronym in use shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 for art applied to political and agitational ends. The prefix agit- was also applied to objects decorated or designed for this purpose, hence agitpoyezd (‘agit-train’) and agitparokhod (‘agit-boat’), decorated transport carrying propaganda to the war-front. Agitprop was not a stylistic term; it applied to various forms as many poets, painters and theatre designers became interested in agitational art. They derived new styles and techniques for it from Futurism, Suprematism and Constructivism.

The characteristics of the new art forms were defined as public, political and communal in purpose and execution. The poet Mayakovsky called for artists to abandon their studios and make the streets their brushes and the squares their palettes. Mass spectacular theatre provided vigorous examples of agitprop either by re-enacting recent events or by providing pageants of the progress of Communism. In 1920, for example, the theatre director ...

Article

Greta Stroeh

[Jean] (Peter Wilhelm)

(b Strassburg, Germany [now Strasbourg, France], Sept 16, 1886; d Basle, Switzerland, June 7, 1966).

French sculptor, painter, collagist, printmaker, and poet of German birth. The son of a German father and French Alsatian mother, he developed a cosmopolitan outlook from an early age and as a mature artist maintained close contact with the avant-garde throughout Europe. He was a pioneer of abstract art and one of the founders of Dada in Zurich, but he also participated actively in both Surrealism and Constructivism. While he prefigured junk art and the Fluxus movement in his incorporation of waste material, it was through his investigation of biomorphism and of chance and accident that he proved especially influential on later 20th-century art in liberating unconscious creative forces.

Following a brief period at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Strasbourg (1900–01), Arp received instruction from 1901 from a friend and neighbour, the painter and printmaker Georges Ritleng (1875–1972). He then attended the Kunstschule in Weimar (1904–7) and the Académie Julian in Paris (...

Article

Nelly Perazzo

Argentine movement of the 1940s based in Buenos Aires and led by Gyula Košice and the Uruguayan artists Carmelo Arden Quin (b 1913) and Rhod Rothfuss (b 1920). Together with Joaquín Torres García and the Argentine poet Edgar Bayley (b 1919), they were responsible for the publication in early 1944 of a single issue of a magazine, Arturo, which heralded the development of the Constructivist movement in Argentina, stressing the importance of pure invention and of interdisciplinary links. Tomás Maldonado, who designed the cover, and Lidy Prati (b 1921), who was responsible for most of the vignettes, soon dissociated themselves from their colleagues to help set up the Asociación arte concreto invención; the editorial content of the magazine, however, suggested a coherent aesthetic that was also promoted in booklets published by Košice and Bayley in 1945 and in two exhibitions, Art Concret Invention...

Article

Argentine group of artists formed in 1952 and active until 1954. It was founded on the initiative of the art critic Aldo Pellegrini (1903–1975) as a union of Constructivist painters belonging to the Asociación arte concreto invención—Tomás Maldonado, Alfredo Hlito, Lidy Prati (1921–2008), Ennio Iommi, and Claudio Girola (1923–1994)—and four independent semi-abstract artists: José Antonio Fernández Muro, Sarah Grilo, Miguel Ocampo, and Hans Aebi (1923–1985). Pellegrini’s main concern was with the quality of the artists’ work rather than with a shared program. They were the first abstract artists in Argentina to exhibit together as a group abroad: in 1953 they showed both at the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro and at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

Pelligrini was pleased with the genuine interaction within the group. The work of the independent artists became more rigorous and economical, inclining progressively toward geometric abstraction, and their lack of dogmatism in turn led the Constructivists to adopt a more flexible approach. The group disbanded on Maldonado’s move to Germany in ...

Article

Arturo  

Article

Jeremy Howard

(Ignat&’yevich)

(b Wylkowyszki" country="Poland [now Vilkaviškis, Lithuania], June 3, 1896; d Moscow, June 14, 1940).

Russian theorist and critic . Having studied physics and mathematics at the University of Petrograd (now St Petersburg), he became a member of Proletkul’t in 1918 and in 1921 joined the Moscow Inkhuk and Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences. Together with other supporters of industrial design such as Osip Brik, Boris Kushner, Lyubov’ Popova and Nikolay Tarabukin, he influenced the new identification of Inkhuk with the Production art movement (see Constructivism, §1). He was one of the founders of LEF (Levyy Front Iskusstv: Left Front of the Arts), which promoted a utilitarian and organizational notion of art and provided a revolutionary platform for the Constructivists and Formalists. He was a contributor to the LEF art journals in the 1920s, writing on the theatre, Constructivism and Production art. Constructivism was regarded as no more than a transitional stage on the path to Production art, which involved the essential restructuring of life. He promoted the concept of ‘engineer–constructor’ as the sole instigator of creative work in the new Soviet society. Art was to be the product of skilled craftsmanship rather than an expression of the artist’s psyche: like other forms of technology it was part of society’s material culture. From ...

Article

Argentine group formed in November 1945 by Tomás Maldonado and other Constructivist artists and active until c. 1964. Its other original members were Lidy Prati (b 1921), Alfredo Hlito, Manuel Espinosa, Raúl Lozza (b 1911), Alberto Molenberg (b 1921), Ennio Iommi, Claudio Girola (b 1923), Jorge Souza (b 1919), Primaldo Mónaco (b 1921), Oscar Núñez (b 1919), Antonio Caraduje (b 1920) and the poet Edgar Bayley (b 1919). Maldonado and Prati were prominent among the artists involved in the publication of the single issue of the magazine Arturo in early 1944, in which the image–invention was proposed as an alternative to representational, naturalistic or symbolic imagery, but they did not take part in two exhibitions of associated artists in 1945 that led to the establishment of Arte Madí. In fact, their central role in setting up the Asociación Arte Concreto Invención was a way of declaring their independence from the other group....

Article

Stephen Bann

(b Middelburg, Zeeland, Nov 1, 1925; d Amsterdam, June 29, 1991).

Dutch artist . He attended the Amsterdam Institute of Design (1943–5) and initially painted in a neo-realist manner. In 1950 he began to produce paintings that were directly reminiscent of the Cubists and the Dutch De Stijl group. Like his contemporaries Victor Pasmore and Mary Martin, Baljeu rapidly moved towards the relief construction as his favoured mode of expression. Using both opaque and transparent coloured materials, he built up complex structures from basic orthogonal forms. He created free-standing sculptures based on the same constructional logic. From the late 1950s Baljeu extended his activities into a wide variety of environmental and architectural projects, such as Synthetic Construction WII (1957; Eindhoven, Stedel. Van Abbemus.)

Baljeu’s aim was not only to produce work in the De Stijl tradition, but also to revive the debate about art in its social and intellectual context, which had characterized the group activity of De Stijl in the 1920s. After he had established contact with the American artist and theorist Charles Biederman in the late 1950s, he founded the magazine ...

Article

Angelika Steinmetz and Gordon Campbell

(b 1896; d 1965).

German potter who after an early career as a sculptor established a pottery workshop in Kandern. Initially he made pottery statuettes, and then cubist vases. In the 1940s he became interested in East Asian (especially Japanese) glazes, and c. 1950 became the first German potter to produce asymmetrical work with experimental viscous glazes and broken, irregular surface textures....

Article

Anna Szinyei Merse

(b Katona [now Ketina, Romania], Jan 14, 1900; d Budapest, April 2, 1988).

Hungarian painter, graphic artist, mosaic designer and teacher . He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest, from 1919 to 1924. Towards the end of the 1920s he spent some time in Paris and Italy on a scholarship. He joined the Szentendre colony in 1929, and he became the most influential practitioner of Hungarian Constructivism. He exhibited widely from 1924 onwards and won many awards.

Barcsay’s work developed from the heavily contoured Working Girl (1928; Budapest, N.G.) and emphatically structured landscapes (e.g. Hilly Landscape, 1934; Budapest, N.G.) to a strict Constructivism after 1945. In his landscapes and urban scenes of 1945–7 he abandoned perspective drawing and placed his whitewashed gable-walls on a plainly structured skeleton. Human figures are reduced to mere signs in the homogeneous space. Monumental works began with his design of 1949 for a huge mosaic (realized 1963) in the Assembly Hall of Miskolc University. Another huge mosaic (3×11 m; ...

Article

Catherine Cooke

(Osipovich)

(b Moscow, Jan 29, 1904; d Moscow, Nov 8, 1976).

Russian architect and teacher . He studied (1920–26) in the Vkhutemas, Moscow, and joined the Constructivist group OSA. His joint diploma project with M. I. Sinyavsky (1895–1979) for a vast administrative and market complex was formally and structurally bold, and its widespread publication brought him to public attention. Barshch’s first notable building was the Moscow Planetarium (1928; with Sinyavsky), the result of a competition. Conceived as an anti-religious ‘theatre of science’ in central Moscow, it established the architects in the canon of international Modernism. Thereafter Barshch worked in Moisey Ginzburg’s housing research team for the Construction Committee (Stroikom) of the Russian Republic. He also collaborated on an uncompromisingly bold communal housing complex for a thousand people (1929; with V. Vladimirov; 1898–1942) and a low-density design (1929) for the new city of Magnitogorsk, with the ‘disurbanist’ ideologue M. A. Okhitovich (1896–1937), which crowned an early career at the centre of the innovative avant-garde. In the 1930s Barshch worked under the classicist ...

Article

Bauhaus  

Rainer K. Wick

[Bauhaus Berlin; Bauhaus Dessau, Hochschule für Gestaltung; Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar]

German school of art, design and architecture, founded by Walter Gropius. It was active in Weimar from 1919 to 1925, in Dessau from 1925 to 1932 and in Berlin from 1932 to 1933, when it was closed down by the Nazi authorities. The Bauhaus’s name referred to the medieval Bauhütten or masons’ lodges. The school re-established workshop training, as opposed to impractical academic studio education. Its contribution to the development of Functionalism in architecture was widely influential. It exemplified the contemporary desire to form unified academies incorporating art colleges, colleges of arts and crafts and schools of architecture, thus promoting a closer cooperation between the practice of ‘fine’ and ‘applied’ art and architecture. The origins of the school lay in attempts in the 19th and early 20th centuries to re-establish the bond between artistic creativity and manufacturing that had been broken by the Industrial Revolution. According to Walter Gropius in ...

Article

Ewa Mikina

(b Warsaw, Oct 30, 1894; d Paris, Aug 2, 1967).

Polish painter, designer and writer, active in France. He studied at the School of Art, Warsaw (1904–9), in Antwerp, and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris (1911–12). In the 1910s he was attracted to Futurism and the work of the Russian avant-garde, and he became one of the originators of Polish Constructivism. His early works show the influence of the Section d’Or, Cubism and Purism. He was a member of the Jung Jiddisch group in 1921–2. He lived in Berlin in 1922–3, exhibiting twice at the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellungen. Back in Warsaw, he joined the Constructivist Block group.

In 1924 Berlewi had a one-man show at the premises of the Warsaw branch of the Austro-Daimler automobile company and published the booklet Mechano-Faktura (‘Mechano-Texture’). Both of these events were declarations of the union between art and technology. His works from 1924–6 are abstract compositions of basic geometrical forms and basic colours—as if in preparation for mechanical multiplication. In ...

Article

Hans Frei

(b Winterthur, Dec 22, 1908; d Zurich, Dec 9, 1994).

Swiss architect, sculptor, painter, industrial designer, graphic designer and writer. He attended silversmithing classes at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich from 1924 to 1927. Then, inspired by the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (1925), Paris, by the works of Le Corbusier and by a competition entry (1927) for the Palace of the League of Nations, Geneva, by Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer (1894–1952), he decided to become an architect and enrolled in the Bauhaus, Dessau, in 1927. He studied there for two years as a pupil of Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee and Vasily Kandinsky, mainly in the field of ‘free art’. In 1929 he returned to Zurich. After working on graphic designs for the few modern buildings being constructed, he built his first work, his own house and studio (1932–3) in Zurich-Höngg; although this adheres to the principles of the new architecture, it retains echoes of the traditional, for example in the gently sloping saddle roof....

Article

Ewa Mikina

[Pol. Blok]

Polish avant-garde group active in Warsaw between 1924 and 1926. Group members included Henryk Berlewi, J. Golus, W. Kajruksztis, Katarzyna Kobro, K. Kryński, Maria Nicz-Borowiak (1896–1944), Aleksander Rafałowski (1894–1981), Henryk Stażewski, Władysław Strzemiński, Mieczysław Szczuka, M. Szulc, Teresa Żarnower (d after 1945). Most members of the group had already exhibited together in some of the numerous exhibitions of the avant-garde in Poland in the early 1920s. They shared an enthusiasm for Soviet Constructivism, but there were already significant divisions within the group when it was formally founded in early 1924, holding its first official exhibition in the showroom of the car manufacturer Laurent-Clément in Warsaw in March of that year. The first issue of the group’s own magazine, Blok, appeared at the same time.

The members of Block proclaimed their adherence to the ideas of ‘absolute constructivism’, the rigour of the composition, the concept of collective work as opposed to the individual creative effort and ‘the maximum economy of the means of artistic expression’. However, their lack of a unified artistic programme resulted in a marked division within the group in ...

Article

Anna Rowland

(Lajos)

(b Pécs, May 21, 1902; d New York, July 1, 1981).

American furniture designer and architect of Hungarian birth. In 1920 he took up a scholarship at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, but he left almost immediately to find a job in an architect’s office. A few weeks later he enrolled at the Bauhaus at Weimar on the recommendation of the Hungarian architect Fred Forbat (1897–1972). Breuer soon became an outstanding student in the carpentry workshop, which he led in its endeavours to find radically innovative forms for modern furniture. In practice, this meant rejecting traditional forms, which were considered symbolic of bourgeois life. The results of these experiments were initially as idiosyncratic as those of other workshops at Weimar, including the adoption of non-Western forms, for example the African chair (1921; see Rowland, 1990, p. 66) and an aggressively castellated style inspired by Constructivism.

Breuer was impressed by De Stijl, whose founder Theo van Doesburg made his presence felt in Weimar in ...

Article

Jeremy Howard

(Maksimovich)

(b Moscow, Jan 16, 1888; d Moscow, Feb 22, 1945).

Russian theorist and critic. He trained as a lawyer at Moscow University but never practised law, devoting himself instead to art and literature. Prior to the October Revolution of 1917 his apartment was a meeting-place for Futurist poets and he was an active member of the Formalist group OPOYAZ (the Society for the Study of Poetical Language). After the Revolution he worked in the Fine Arts department (IZO) of Narkompros and as a commissar of the Petrograd (now St Petersburg) Svomas (Free Art Studios) in 1919. In 1918 he established the group IMO (Iskusstvo Molodykh: Art of the Young). Gaining Anatoly Lunacharsky’s support and a subsidy from Narkompros, this group was able to publish its views through the radical newspaper Iskusstvo kommuny (‘Art of the Commune’) (1918–19). Brik promoted Russian Futurism as a revolutionary Communist art and actively participated in the setting up of Kom-Fut, a Communist Futurist collective in Petrograd in ...

Article

Gottlieb Leinz

(b Hannover, Oct 17, 1890; d Hannover, Feb 2, 1964).

German painter. He had no artistic training but began painting in 1919. His friendship with Kurt Schwitters from 1921 signalled not only a new period of artistic production but also participation in the leading activities of international Constructivism. In 1925 he turned completely to Constructivism, for example Opus 25A (oil on canvas, 1925; Hannover, Niedersächs. Landesmus.). His strongly curved forms, comparable to the reliefs of Hans Arp, alternate with squares, in an organic whole conceived in flat, brilliant colours. From the mid-1920s the horizontal–vertical emphasis of his compositions was augmented by the dynamic use of textured surfaces and diagonal grids. The latter featured particularly in the series of Triangle pictures on triangular canvases, which anticipated later shaped canvases. Few of his important collages and constructions from these years survive.

The climax of this period was the foundation with Schwitters and others in 1927 of the Hannover group, which Buchheister led from ...

Article

Philip Cooper

Movement founded in Paris in late 1929 during a meeting between the writer Michel Seuphor (born 1901) and the Uruguayan painter Joaquín Torres García, which became public in 1930. Though having no official manifesto, it is best characterized as broadly Constructivist in outlook. It comprised mainly abstract artists from Constructivism, Futurism, Purism, Neo-plasticism, Dada and Bauhaus, whose common motivation was to create an artistic opposition to the dominant Surrealists. The movement comprised both a periodical, which ran for three issues in 1930, and a single exhibition held at Galerie 23, Rue la Boëtie, Paris, from 18 to 30 April 1930. There were 130 exhibits, covering painting, sculpture, architecture and stage design, by 46 artists, including Hans Arp, Vasily Kandinsky, Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, Amédée Ozenfant, Antoine Pevsner, Luigi Russolo and Georges Vantongerloo. Notably, Theo van Doesburg refused to join, instead forming a rival group, Art concret. The exhibition closed with a lecture by ...