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Lubov Popova (1889-1924) … pure Russian Avant Garde

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She only had a short career in art, but for me Popova is one of the most authentic of all Russian Avant Garde artists. Painter, sculptor, designer and costume designer she is multi disciplined , but personally i think the most attractive of all her art is her “Spatial force constructions” . (The Adler catalogue with these works is available through www.ftn-books.com) In theseworks she shines and if you look closely you will find parallels with Morellet and his art and they look far more contemporary than het her other constructivist paintings.

left Popova and on the right Morellet

Popova was born into a wealthy family of Moscow factory owners, which secured her a quality art education. After studying in the studios of Stanislav Zhukovsky and Konstantin Yuon in Moscow from 1907 to 1909, she traveled to Italy, where she was strongly drawn to the monumental art of the early Renaissance. She then traveled to Pskov and Novgorod to study iconography. In 1912 Popova met some of the leading masters of the Moscow avant-garde gathered around Vladimir Tatlin, and for some time she worked at his studio, together with Nadezhda Udaltsova, with whom she was to develop a close friendship, and Aleksandr Vesnin (see Vesnin brothers). Popova, Udaltsova, and Vesnin developed close creative and personal friendships and love that would last throughout Popova’s short lifetime. During this period Popova visited Sergey Shchukin’s renowned collection of French art and, drawn to Cubism, traveled to Paris with Udaltsova. The Académie de la Palette, where Popova and Udaltsova studied Cubism with Henri Le Fauconnier and Jean Metzinger, was to prove a crucial step in Popova’s artistic development.

After another trip to France and Italy in 1914, Popova returned to Moscow as a full-fledged artist, her predilection and interest now centring on Art Nouveau. She organized “weekly gatherings on art” at her house, which attracted the forerunners of the Moscow artistic avant-garde, and participated in avant-garde exhibitions, such as Jack of Diamonds exhibitions of 1914 and 1916, “0.10” (1915), and “The Store” (1916).

The mid-1910s were a turning point for Popova. After successful experiments in Cubism (such as Composition with Figures, 1913), Popova created a series of “plastic paintings,” such as Jug on Table(1915), in which there is a synthesis of painting and relief work using plaster and tin. In 1916 she joined the Supremus Group founded by Kazimir Malevich. Inspired by Malevich’s ideas about abstraction and Suprematism (an art form he invented), Popova developed an individual variation of nonobjective art in which traditional principles were dynamically combined with the flatness and linearity of medieval Russian art and the most innovative avant-garde techniques. She classified her work, with its rhythmical syntheses of coloured planes, as “Painterly Architectonics.”

Popova’s painting gradually began to evolve into Constructivism; her compositions of the early 1920s bear titles such as Construction and Spatial-Force Construction. Thus, her departure from painting and her turn to “practical art” in 1921 was a logical step in her artistic evolution. During this period Popova connected teaching and theoretical work (at, for example, the Moscow Institute of Artistic Culture) while creatively she moved toward the applied arts, working with textile designs, posters, and book covers. Her most interesting work was in the field of set design. She created innovative Constructivist sets around which the action developed. She worked with the Kamerny Theatre of Aleksandr Tairov and Vsevolod Meyerhold. Popova died at the peak of her artistic powers two days after the death of her son, from whom she had contracted scarlet fever.

popova adler

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Kenneth Martin (1905-1984)

 

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Kenneth Martin was for me one of the grand old masters of Constructivism. Outside England hardly known, but considered by many of great influence and importance. His best works for me are his prints in which he excels. His wife Mary was a gifted artist too and from both www.ftn-books.com has some nice publications. I only know of one exhibition outside Great Britain, which is the Bottrop exhibition but when you see one announced , i strongly recommend a visit to discover yourself the importance of Kenneth Martin.

 

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Jean Gorin (1899-1981) and Wim Crouwel

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Jean Gorin , a typical 50’s /60’s artist has stayed a little obscure outside France, but this is undeserved. His art is influenced by Piet Mondrian and Constructivism , but has developed into an art typical of Jean Gorin.

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This was recognized by Willem Sandberg who gave Gorin a solo presentation in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1967. Here it is getting more interesting from my point of view, because together with this exhibition one of the very very best Wim Crouwel designed catalogues ever was published. The catalogue typically Crouwel sized was partly printed in black and the other part of the text on the cover executed in embossed printing. Together with the design of the catalogue itself it has become an exquisite artist book on Jean Gorin which is still available at www.ftn-books.com

 

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Joost Baljeu ( 1925-1991 )

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Here is a short text that you can find on Wikipedia on Baljeu:

Joost Baljeu was born in Middelburg on 1 November 1925. During World War II (1939–45) he began painting in an expressionist, realistic and semi-abstract idiom. After Cubism he evolved to constructivism. He made his first reliefs in 1954-55. From 1957 to 1972 he was a professor at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague in the Hague.[1] The Canadian artist Eli Bornstein began to make three-dimensional “structurist” reliefs during a sabbatical in Italy and the Netherlands in 1957.[ He met and was influenced by artists such as Jean Gorin, Joost Baljeu, Anthony Hill, Kenneth Martin, Mary Martin, Victor Pasmore and Georges Vantongerloo.

I truly began to appreciate his works just some 10 years ago at the time i first visited a gallery on dutch Modern Art. The art dealer had at that time 2 large wall sculptures by Baljeu, which were not only very impressive, but unfortunately much too expensive to acquire.

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Because i had seen these, i was spoiled and never wanted to focus at something much smaller. The admiration remained , but no additions were made to our collection of Modern Art. Still www.ftn-books.com has some excellent and highly collectable Baljeu publications for sale.

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Dora Maurer (1937) …special silkscreen edition (1998)

It is not that long that i admire the works by Dora Maurer. It took me 20 years to appreciate minimal art and not much less to appreciate constructivist works, but the instant i encountered works by Maurer i became fascinated.

Dora Maurer (born 1937 in Budapest) is a Hungarian artist whose work has spanned a 50-year career. With an emphasis on photography, film, graphic design, amongst other things, Maurer has made herself a household name in the art world. Principally achieving recognition in the 1970s with avant-garde work, Maurer has developed her art career from works with contemporary and modern influences that have been shown worldwide. All of her art is based on mathematical and complex system processes. Most of Maurer’s work follows the theme of showing options to the viewer and what the viewer can do with those options. Many of her works break down simple actions so the viewer can really view the piece as movement, not a photograph of movement. Dora Maurer has in addition been a professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Budapest and a curator.

In 1998 she was given a nice retrospective at the Josef Albers Museum in Bottrop for which occasion she made a wonderful and original silkscreen print for her exhibition. The Josef Albers museum had, beside the small edition for publicity purposes, about 15 copies signed by Dora Maurer and www.ftn-books.com has 3 available of these rare signed silkscreen prints.

maurer signed a

maurer signed b

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Willi Baumeister (1889-1955)… a constructivist?

 

Personally i consider, like Jurrie Poot, ( he wrote a short article on Baumeister in the Stedelijk Museum Bulletin) a constructivist. But a constructivist who became more free with every painting finally resulting in a style which was a cross between Malevich, Miro and in the Netherlands …Willy Boers.

Born at Stuttgart, where in 1911 he enrolled at the Art Academy as a pupil of Adolf Hölzel. Trip to Paris in 1912 where he discovered the work of ToulouseLautrec and Gauguin. Another trip to Paris in 1914 with Oskar Schlemmer; this time he became an enthusiastic admirer of Cézanne. From 1919 date his first Mauerbilder (wall pictures). A third stay in Paris in 1924, where he came into contact with Ozenfant, Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger and, some years later, the Abstraction-Creation group ( 1932). He taught at the Fine Arts School in Frankfort from 1928 to 1933, when he was dismissed by the Nazis and condemned as a “degenerate painter.” Thereafter he lived a retired life in Stuttgart and worked on in solitude until the end of the war; earned his living during this period by working in a printing plant. Appointed to a professorship at the Stuttgart Academy of Fine Arts in 1946. In 1947 he published a book, Das Unbekannte in der Kunst, written four years earlier. His work has been represented in most of the major post-war exhibitions in Europe, and also at the exhibition of German Art of the Twentieth Century, held in 1957 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Baumeister retrospectives organized at Documenta ll ( Kassel, 1959) and at the 1960 Venice Biennale.

www.ftn-books.com has some nice titles on Willi Baumeister