El Lissitzky (Eliezer MarkovichLissitzky, Russia 1890-1941), was one of the most influential, experimental and controversial artists of the period between two world wars. Lissitzky approached art as a response to the demands of his time – a time of crisis, profound change, and of faith in industry and revolution. He did it by breakingdown the boundaries between disciplines and by linking visual art, architecture and design.
Born into a middle-class Jewish family, this architect, painter, graphic designer, exhibition designer and photographer worked with the Soviets afterthe 1917 October Revolution, with European Avant-garde art in the 1920s, and as a propagandist for Stalin’s regime in the 1930s until his death in 1941. Lissitzky contributed to the development of Suprematism, alongside Kazimir Malevich, and with Constructivism after that. El Lissitzky invented his own form of artistic expression, which he named Proun, and his work made strong connections outside Russia, both with the De Stijl group in The Netherlands, and in the teachings of the Bauhausin Germany.
After the October Revolution in 1917, he was invited by artist Marc Chagall to give lessons at the People’s Art School in Vítebsk. There, alongside his pupils and the Suprematist collective UNOVIS, he got involved in all kinds of protest activities, supporting the revolutionary army with propaganda posters which they placed in trams and on buildings. During these early years of the revolution, new art enjoyed official support, the idea being to eradicate bourgeois art, which was considered decorative and elitist, and to strengthen the new, proletarian, culture. El Lissitzky, like the driving force behind Supermatism, Kazimir Malevich, had a social and collective idea of art, and he was instrumental in creatingpublic awareness about the new regime´s ideology, with a new abstract and geometric artistic language.
From 1921 onwards, he travelled continuously between the USSR and Europe, particularly to Germany, where he had acquired a degree in architectural engineering in 1914. He promoted Soviet art and ideas, while, in turn, picking up the newest trends and ideas in Western culture. He met and worked with famous names in the art world and with leading avant-garde artists: Albert Gideon Brinkmann, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, Hans Arp, Theo van Doesburg, László Moholy-Nagy, etc. On his trips to Europe, El Lissitzky organized exhibitions, gave talks, designed covers of magazines such as Broom and Wendingen, illustrated books and made his own work known.
Lissitzky was an active member of several artistic groups, and Constructivism was strongly ingrained in him. He developed his own concept with paintings, engravings and drawings that he called Proun, which stood for Projects for the Affirmation of the New, and which were conceived as a meeting point for painting and architecture. Comprising two- and three-dimensional geometric elements, they were often axonometric representations, with projections on various axes, and they challenged both spatial relationships and gravity. Lissitzky’s Proun work also served as his inspiration for designing buildings, costumes, machinery and stage sets.
A copy of Lissitzky’s Prounenraum, which was created in 1923 for the Greater Berlin Art Exhibition, was reconstructed in Museo Picasso Málaga for this exhibition. The project transferred his experiments in painting into 3-D,and merged them with his studies in architecture. The space measures 3.20m x3.64m x 3.64m, and it is the three-dimensional expression of the of the Prounen spatial concept. The Prounenraum offers visitors a visual experience in which they can actively participate, as it synthesizes thequest for what the Utopian Avant-garde movements of the 1920s called “the experience of totality”, in which art and life are one.
The catalogue, published in Spanish, English, Italian and Catalan, was jointly published by the four institutions that have organized the exhibition: Museo Picasso Málaga, MART, Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera and La Fábrica. The 200-page hardback book is copiously illustrated and contains pictures of the works on display, as well as articles by Oliva María Rubio, the exhibition curator and artistic director of La Fabrica; José Lebrero Stals, artistic director of MPM; Valery Dymshits, professor at the European University of St. Petersburg; Víctor Margolín, professor at the University of Illinois; and Isabel Tejeda Martín, professor at the University of Murcia.It also contains some of the correspondence between El Lissitzky and Theo van Doesburg and Le Corbusier, amongst other famous artists.
In a series of talks taking place to coincide with the opening of the exhibition, experts and researchers discussed the historical, social, political, economic and cultural context in which Lissitzky evolved, the development of his multi- and cross-disciplinary work, and its influence on the art produced by his contemporaries.
Exhibition co-produced by Museo Picasso Málaga, MART Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporánea di Trento e Rovereto, Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera, Barcelona and La Fábrica, Madrid with the collaboration f the MT. Abraham Foundation.
Information for Visitors
Location: Palacio de Buenavista, No. 8 C/ San Agustín,29015 Malaga, Spain
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