Constructivism is an artistic and architectural philosophy that originated in Russia beginning in 1913 by Vladimir Tatlin. The movement was in favor 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 widespread, with major effects upon architecture, sculpture, graphic design, industrial design, theatre, film, dance, fashion and music.
Main Ideas of Constructivism
– Constructivists replaced art’s traditional concern with composition with a focus on construction. Objects were to be created not to express beauty, or the artist’s outlook, or to represent the world, but to carry out a fundamental analysis of the materials and forms of art.
– Constructivist art often aimed to demonstrate how materials behaved, for instance, what different properties had materials such as wood, glass, and metal. The form of the artwork would be dictated by its materials .
– Constructivism art is a symbol of the modern era. The International movement influenced by the Russian avant-garde movement focused on the idea of art as an object and used new materials to highlight advances in technology and industry.
Vladimir Tatlin is often hailed as the father of Constructivism. He had collaborated on the preceding Cubo-Futurist movement. His interests changed during a visit to Paris in 1913, where he saw a series of wooden reliefs by Picasso. Tatlin appreciated that the reliefs were not carved or modeled in a traditional manner but composed in an entirely different way, and put together from pre-formed elements. On his return to Russia, Tatlin began to experiment with the possibilities of three-dimensional relief, by using new types of material and exploring their potential.
Pablo Picasso Mandolin and Clarinet 1913
In 1919, Tatlin had achieved some prominence as a representative of different paths for the Russian avant-garde. At “0.10, the Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting”, Tatlin unveiled his Corner Counter-reliefs. The latter were suspended in air across a corner of the room, instead of being attached to the flat surface of a wall, and their abstract forms defied the traditional idea that relief should depict a figure or an event. Instead, the Reliefs allowed the viewer to focus on the types of materials used, and how forms were arranged in relation to each other.
Vladimir Tatlin Corner Counter-relief
It wasn’t until Tatlin exhibited his model for the Monument for the Third International that Constructivism was truly born. More commonly known as Tatlin’s Tower, the unusual spiral-shaped building was designed as a government office building. It was planned to rise higher than the Eiffel Tower, this triumphant commemoration of the Russian Revolution was to be modern, functional and dynamic. The project proved an inspiration to the artist’s contemporaries, who quickly came together to debate its consequences, and hence Constructivism came to life.
Vladimir Tatlin – Model for the Monument to the Third International.
The Revolution of Constructivism
What stood at the root of the period was a desire to express the experience of modern life. Similarly to the Italian Futurism, the focus was on the demonstration of dynamism and the creativity was seen as a tool for re-invention. Developing after the World War I, Russian constructivism pushed towards the art that would serve social change and inspire people to rebuild the society in a Utopian model. Concerned with the use of ‘real materials in real space’, the movement used art as a tool for the common good, much in line with the Communist principles of the new Russian regime. The art in service of the revolution needed to be bold and stripped of any emotions. This way of thinking was greatly diffrent from the standpoint of the Suprematism, which was using abstraction to break free of the expectations and limitations of the physical world and to connect with something more pure or spiritual.