Constructivism (art)

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Poster by Mayakovsky.

Constructivism was an artistic and architectural philosophy, which rejected the idea of autonomous art in favour of art as a practice for social purposes. This movement originated in Russia beginning in 1919, and had great effect on modern art movements of the 20th century, influencing major trends such as Bauhaus and the De Stijl movement.

Quotes on Constructivism[edit]

Sorted chronologically, by date of the quote

1920 - 1930[edit]

  • Art must not be concentrated in dead shrines called museums. lt must be spread everywhere – on the streets, in the trams, factories, workshops, and in the workers' homes.
    • Vladimir Mayakovsky (1918) "Shrine or Factory?" ; translation from Mikhail Anikst et al. (eds.) Soviet Commercial Design of the Twenties (New York: Abbeville Press, 1987) p. 15
  • The reality of our century is technology: the invention, construction and maintenance of machines. To be a user of machines is to be of the spirit of this century. It has replaced the transcendental spiritualism of past eras
    • László Moholy-Nagy, his quote on the spirit of the century (1921); as quoted in Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson 1990, page 93
  • Everyone is equal before the machine.. ..everyone can be the machine’s master or its slave.
    • László Moholy-Nagy, quote on the machine-era (1922); as quotes in Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson 1990, page 93

1931 - 1945[edit]

  • The Cubists were perhaps the first school to overcome this association of the ugly and the mechanical: they not merely held that beauty could be produced through the machine: they even pointed to the fact that it had been produced. ...They extracted from the organic environment just those elements that could be stated in abstract geometrical symbols: they transposed and readjusted the contents of vision as freely as the inventor readjusted organic functions: they even created on canvas or in metal mechanical equivalents of organic objects... This whole process of rational experiment in abstract mechanical forms was pushed further by the constructivists. ...They created in form the semblance of the mathematical equations and physical formulae that had produced our new environment... seeking in this new sculpture to observe the physical laws of equipose or to evolve dynamic equivalents for the solid sculpture of the past by rotating a part of the object through space.
    • Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934) Ch. 7 "Assimilation of the Machine"
  • [Constructivism is] not as a tool or even a specific method, but rather as a perfect union of the coming state and the movement’s ‘spiritual’ aims.

1945 and later[edit]

  • We know only what we do, what we make, what we construct ; and all that we make, all that we construct, are realities. I call them images, not in Plato's sense (namely that they are only reflections of reality), but I hold that these images are the reality itself and that there is no reality beyond this reality except when in our creative process we change the images: then we have created new realities.
    • Naum Gabo cited in: Eidos: a journal of painting, sculpture and design. (1950) Nr.1, p. 31
  • We believe that the elements in the chemical formula of our creative work, problem, invention, and art, correspond to the challenges of our age.
    • El Lissitzky (1967; 1980) El Lissitzky : Life, Letters, Texts. p. 378
  • My talent lies in the expression of my life and creative power through light, colour and form. As a painter I can convey the essence of life.
    • László Moholy-Nagy in: Art of the 20th century, Part 1 by Karl Ruhrberg, Klaus Honnef, Manfred Schneckenburger, Ingo F. Walther, Christiane Fricke (2000) p. 178

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