Constructivism: collage and photomontage used as propaganda and to praise the proletariat


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Of all historic avant-garde movements of the 20th century, Russian Constructivism, which was formed just a few years before the October Revolution of 1917, was certainly one of the most engaged in relation to social and political causes.

The Constructivists rejected the idea of “art for art’s sake,” and instead focused on creative practices aimed at promoting and honoring the new social class founded upon the proletariat.

They attempted to merge art and revolution, overcoming the old bourgeois canons of generally commemorative 19th-century art on the one hand and, on the other, directing creativity towards practical aspects closer to the everyday life of the “average worker.”

It therefore fitting that the Constructivists not only created some fine examples of painting, sculpture and architecture, but that they also excelled in other specialized fields, such as graphic design, photography, typography, textiles, advertising and design.

Constructivist style, which is best seen in the construction of impactful collages and photomontages, was characterized by compositions that often extend diagonally across the page, defined by linear outlines and intersecting elements.

Photomontage was particularly popular among Constructivist artists because it was an effective means of communication that fit perfectly with the aesthetics of the movement, the very opposite of exclusive individual style.

The artists in the Constructivist movement who left the most lasting mark were El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko and poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. Together, the latter two went on to create what they called Reklam-konstruktor (Advertising Constructor): a series of posters, leaflets, signs and packaging that publicized State-sponsored items, with Mayakovsky writing the text and Rodchenko creating the photomontage graphics.

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