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El Lissitzky opened his essay Art and Pangeometry by writing that “in the period between 1918 and 1921, a lot of old rubbish was destroyed.”[1] This quote encapsulates the tumult of the early twentieth-century, when many long-established orders were overturned, not the least of which were both artistic and scientific in nature. Revolutions in the spheres of politics, mathematics, physics, and art combined in the vanguard movement of Russia known as Constructivism. This movement grew in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and thrived in Russia until Stalin took power in 1924. Thereafter, Modernism in general lost favor and was either curtailed or moved elsewhere. Constructivism was influenced by the concurrent debates and developments in modern mathematics and physics, particularly of the fourth dimension and non-Euclidean geometry. Both of these disciplines revolutionized modern conceptions of time and space. There were three primary ways in which artists used these modern studies. First, they were powerful metaphors for the spirit of change and rebellion rampant in the country’s revolutionary atmosphere. Furthermore, they provided artists a new vocabulary of shapes, forms, and spaces which were imbued with that same spirit of revolution. Lastly, artists used these ideas to inform their own artistic theories and to create an art for the new Russian society and its people. They used mathematics and physics for a number of reasons and in a number of ways. This essay discusses this relationship of non-Euclidean geometry and space in a selection of works by Constructivist artists Naum Gabo and Aleksandr Rodchenko.

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©2011-2012 Floris Bannister



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