Alan C. Birnholz

  • El Lissitzky, The Avant-Garde, and The Russian Revolution

    IN 1924 EL LISSITZKY PRODUCED a fascinating document on his status with respect to the postwar avant-garde and to the ongoing development of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Constructor (Self-Portrait), Fig. 1, attests to Lissitzky’s desire throughout the 1920s to create works of art that would take their place at the forefront of the modern movement while remaining faithful to the precept of an art relevant and meaningful to the masses. The work is filled with references to the contemporary ideal of the machine and the engineer, to the notion of the artist proceeding in an objective, scientific

  • El Lissitzky’s “Prouns”, Part II


    LISSITZKY’S WORK ON THE Proun paintings extended from 1919 until early 1924. In several of the earlier paintings the tie to Malevich’s Suprematist works is very strong. For example, one Proun recalls Malevich by its pure colors and the rectangular forms that simultaneously operate in two- and three-dimensions, though now joined by a curving, graceful line. Proun 1 A, The Bridge, incorporates Malevich’s use of an increasingly nebulous or dissipating form to suggest movement into space, while the link of this Proun to the engineering sensibility of the Constructivists is emphasized by the title,

  • El Lissitzky’s “Prouns”, Part I


    THE EARLIEST SURVIVING WORKS BY El Lissitzky are two watercolor sketches of the Church of the Trinity in Vitebsk and of the fortification wall surrounding the artist’s native Smolensk. These sketches, dated 1910 when Lissitzky was nearly twenty years old, are customarily interpreted as studies undertaken in conjunction with Lissitzky’s courses in architecture at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt, in which Lissitzky had enrolled the preceding year. Indeed the concern for an objective and accurate account of these structures, with comparatively little interest in landscape, atmospheric, or