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PRINT February 1991

BRAVE NEW WORLD

The streets are our brushes, the squares are our palettes.
—Vladimir Mayakovsky, “Order to the Army of Art,” 1918
 
Not the Old, Not the New, But the Necessary.
—Vladimir Tatlin, 1920
 
Go to the factories, this is the only task for artists. . . . Artists must become producers.
—Osip Brik, Art of the Commune, 1918

The major exhibition “Art Into Life: Russian Constructivism 1914–1932,” curated by Richard Andrews and Milena Kalinovska, represents the culmination of the recent historical and critical reevaluation of the Constructivist movement.1 Not only did the show present work that had never before been seen in the West, but it allowed the viewer to reexperience Constructivism in its vital, youthful idealism, emphasizing the Constructivists’ enthusiastic support of the new political system ushered in by the Bolshevik Revolution.

Perhaps the most important shift in art theory and criticism of the past twenty years has been the dismantling of Clement Greenberg’s notion of Modernism and its concomitant historicism. Instead of a hermetic, esthetic formalism defined by flatness, autonomy, and self-reflexivity, a lineage passing inexorably from Courbet, through Cézanne, Cubism, and Matisse, to the New York

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