The first uncrowned style of the Soviet Land
Constructivism art arose in Russia, among the artists and architects who actively welcomed revolutionary sentiments, and subsequently the proletarian revolution itself, as the beginning of a new epoch, designed to qualitatively change the inner world of man and his environment.
No more inspiration. From now on, the beauty of an artwork (painting, photograph), piece of furniture, building or scenery was no longer taken into account — everything was solely considered from the point of usefulness. In Soviet art, the direction was so widespread that until the early 1930s, Russian constructivism was unofficially recognized as the dominant style of the young state.
The founder of the art movement was the Soviet artist and designer Vladimir Tatlin (
1885—1953). In 1914,
at an exhibition in his own studio,
he showed three-dimensional abstractions in iron and wood,
fragments of finished things (
they called them "synthetic static compositions") for the first time. They marked the beginning of the constructivist line in the Russian ,
opposed to Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism. Tatlin also actively worked on sketches of dishes,
clothes and even stoves,
but his models were usually utopian,
they could rather be called idea projects,
not things. Such was the Monument of the Third International (
1919—1920), a symbolic embodiment of the revolutionary era,
but hardly capable of realizing the synthesis of sculpture,
architecture and technology.
The concept was very complex, somewhat reminiscent of the Tower of Babel: seven floors, and each of them rotated around its axis with different speed (year, month, day).
Unity and struggle of opposites
There was no unity within the art movement, since the artists actively began to develop two lines: construction, which was close to abstract art, and applied constructivism, i. e., fundamentally utilitarian art, so much beloved by the leaders of the first proletarian state.
In applied constructivism, simplicity, emphasized practicality of objects and clothing were highlighted. The supporters of the new direction were convinced that only industrial art could give a person comfort, fill his existence with content, a program, organize his life, express new relationships between people. Constructivists were sure that with the development of the culture, ornamentation, decorativeness would disappear as signs of individualism of the bygone era. The main thing was to develop norms, standards, types…
Constructivism, like Suprematism, used the ideas of Cubism and , praising the mechanized culture.
Malevich believed that art was a special kind of activity that was free from social or political obligations. Tatlin, on the other hand, was convinced that art could and had to have an impact on society. This ideological conflict not only prevented the creation of a unified movement of Russian abstract art, but, ultimately, became the cause of a split within constructivism itself.
The brush is no worse than a bayonet
The new art forms found their customer in the Soviet regime,
which encouraged and supported it in every possible way in its first years. In fact,
it was the time when Constructivism was established as one of the directions of proletarian art. Kitchen factories,
palaces of labour,
commune houses were built in the country; colossal propaganda work needed infinite number of posters. In the service of the new society,
the Constructivists took on the design of everything in the world: from furniture and printing products to ceramics and suits. At the same time,
any manifestation of aestheticism was denied — only the production necessity.
Constructivism played an extremely important role in the development of graphics,
including the art of books and posters. In these areas,
new techniques were found,
original artistic ways were discovered. Trying to fill the lack of suitable material for photomontages, Gustav Klutsis
and Alexander Rodchenko turned to photography.
Klutsis continued to use photography as auxiliary raw material for further processing, whereas for Rodchenko, it soon turned into a powerful means of expression.
The epoch required stands,
and mass circulation of literature. Artists actively developed new fonts (
Vasily Yermilov), used their various combinations (
Alexey Gan, El Lissitzky
). The history of Constructivist advertising began. "Advertising constructors Mayakovsky — Rodchenko" was the authors' signature under the advertisement for Tryokhgorny beer,
cigarettes and sweets. The streets of Moscow have changed thanks to the bright,
showcases designed by A. Rodchenko,
A. Levin. The most radical-minded representatives of the movement sought to completely replace traditional forms of creativity with design and cinema.
The Soviet regime did not use the services of the artists for aesthetic reasons, and constructivism did not arise as a whim. The laconic form and colour were welcomed by the authorities because they experienced a severe shortage of building materials and imported printing ink (there was no Soviet ink at that time). Therefore, many works of designers and artists of that time only contained two or three colours. Moreover, there were active discussions about the abolition of the capital letter in print media. The savings were calculated, the expediency of the innovation was argued.
Constructivists actively developed a non-figurative ornament for printed fabrics, since it was supposed to organize the socialist life. In 1924, at the First Cotton Printing Factory, L. Popova and V. Stepanova launched new samples of fabrics, and in the summer they were worn all over Moscow
In fact, Constructivist drawings were the first Soviet fashion. Popova and Stepanova actively used Soviet symbols, but the most interesting were fabrics with geometric patterns. Constructivists borrowed a thorough analysis of proportional and spatial relationships, rhythmic constructions, optical effects, combination of planar and volumetric elements from non-objective painting, which made it possible to offer innovative solutions.
Starting to develop a model of clothing, designers, first of all, focused on the connection between design and production, since this was an important component of the Constructivist concept. As a rule, the cut of the Constructivist models was a combination of rectangular and trapezoidal parts of different colous. The design simplicity was not only a manifestation of the geometric shapes absolutization, common in the 1920s, but also assumed the industrial manufacture of clothing. Thus, one of the trends in Soviet design in the 1920s was the development of functional workwear. Vladimir Tatlin also designed clothes. His slogan was: "Neither new, nor old, but necessary".
The reality of the method
Soviet Constructivism ceased to dominate as the unofficial style of the communist state by the end of the 1920s. However, by this time its principles had become world famous. In April 1932, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks issued a resolution "On the fight against formalism in art". Socialist was declared the only creative method in the Soviet Union. The epoch demanded portraits of ruddy kolkhoz women, stern Red Army men and wise leaders. The Soviet regime no longer had problems with paints, so the Constructivism with its utility was no longer needed.
Nevertheless, the grain of Constructivism successfully sprouted in Western Europe and bore its fruit in the masterpieces of world architecture and design by Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Mies Van der Rohe and others.