PRINT September 1972

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 manner. Indeed, the use of photomontage in itself connotes Lissitzky’s desire to present himself as an avant-garde figure. The representation of Lissitzky as architect relates to the widespread avant-garde idea of architecture as the most important, most efficacious of the arts.1 The artist now

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