Women of the Russian and Soviet avant-garde

Popova's Moscow studio, 1924 photographed by Alexander Rodchenko showing her maquette for The Magnanimous Cuckold (1922) Painterly Architectonics (1917)

On organizing anew

Liubov Popova
circa 1921

We have no need to conceal our pride that we are living in this new Great Epoch of great organizations.

Not a single historical moment will be repeated.

The past is for history. The present and the future are for organizing life, for organizing what is both creative will and creative exigency.

We are breaking with the past, because we cannot accept its hypotheses. We ourselves are creating our own hypotheses anew and only upon them, as in our inventions, can we build our new life and new worldview.

More than anyone else, the artist knows this intuitively and believes in it absolutely. That is exactly why artists, above all, undertook a revolution and have created — are still creating — a new worldview. Revolution in art has always predicted the breaking of the old public consciousness and the appearance of a new order in life.

A real revolution, unprecedented in all the enormity of its significance for the future, is sweeping away all the old conceptions, customs, concepts, qualities, and attachments and is replacing them with new and very different ones, as if borrowed from another planet or from alien creatures. But wasn’t art the forerunner of this revolution — art that replaced the old world view with the need to organize — and to such an extent that even the end of “art” was declared? In fact, this [new] form has declared the end not only of the old art, but perhaps of art in general or, if not the end, then an artistic transformation so great that it cannot be accommodated within the old conception of art.

Varvara Stepanova and Liubov Popova. photographed by Alexander Rodchenko, Moscow 1924ia700602.us.archive.org-amazonsofavantga00exte_0064

An analysis of the conception of the subject as distinguished from its representational significance lies at the basis of our approach toward reality: at first there was the deformation of the subject, and this was followed by the exposition of its essence, which is the concretization of a given consciousness within given forms. It also marks the beginning of the organization of the artistic media.

As a purpose, this is not new. for there has been no significant era in art when the subject was not deformed in accordance with the external energy of expression or reconstructed from a need to concretize a particular worldview.

To the extent that a given confluence of historical conditions for the formation of a certain consciousness is unique, that condition of consciousness in relation to its own past, present, and future will also be singular and unique.

That’s the first point.

The second point is still more important — above all, the moment of creation: a new organization of elements is created out of the constant, traditional ones, which are so only because, ultimately, we know only one and the same concrete material.

Through a transformed, [more] abstract reality, the artist will be liberated from all the conventional worldviews that existed hitherto. In the absolute freedom of non-objectivity and under the precise dictation of its consciousness (which helps the expediency and necessity of the new artistic organization to manifest themselves), [the artist] is now constructing [his/her] own art, with total conviction.

Our fanaticism is conscious and assured, for the scope of our experiences has taught us to assume our positive place in history.

The more organized, the more essential the new forms in art, the more apparent it will become that our era is a great one and indispensable to humanity.

(Form + color + texture + rhythm + material + etc.) × ideology (the need to organize) = our art.

Alexandra Exter in front of Udaltsova's paintings at the exhibition The Store, Moscow, 1916Aleksandra Ekster

Liubov Popova in her studio, Moscow, 1919Liubov Popova

Nadezhda Udaltsova in front of her painting Restaurant (plate 83), 1915. Moscow

Nadezhda Udaltsova

Natalia Goncharova, Paris, ca. 1915Natalia Goncharova

Olga Rozanova. photographed by M.P. Koreneva in Vladimir, ca. 1900

Olga Rozanova

Varvara Stepanova. Moscow, 1916

Varvara Stepanova

6 thoughts on “Women of the Russian and Soviet avant-garde

  1. Excellent Posting, My Blog Art History Blog is dedicated to writing reviews on art History , as a Marxist I am particularly interested in Soviet Art. I have just finished a critical review of Socialist Realism and will be shortly writing about Soviet Constructivists including Popova , Stepanova Goncharova , Lissitsky , Rodchenko and Tatlin, I came across your blog by accicedent recently read Mikhael Lifshitz The Philosophy of Art of Karl Marx . I love your comments about Lifschitz and never knew that Illyenkov mentions him. Love your Blog Keep up the good work

  2. Pingback: VKhUTEMAS exhibition in Berlin: Rediscovery of a Russian revolutionary art school | The Charnel-House

  3. Pingback: A revolutionary impulse: Russian avant-garde at the MoMA | The Charnel-House

  4. I love each of these artists and their works, though not all to the same degree. Thank you for shining the light of the Charnelhouse (quite an apposition) in their direction

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