The Realistic Manifesto
More than any other artistic phenomenon in an history, Russian
Constructivism has being labeled as political, abstract, revolutionary, red
and more. The movement, that find his main action field in
architecture, attracted the most brilliant brains of a new generation of
designers, the first to act in the post-czar era.
Very few movements in modem art had the power to make a
statement in arts and design for so long that even today we can find schools and people calling themselves “Constructivists. Born at the second decade of
the 20th Century, the movement is first noticed through street posters and launches the first anti~Futuristic statement of the Century compiled as part of the Realistic Manifesto of Gabo and Pevsner.
The febrile activity of those inspired designers determined an evolution of
new forms and the revolutionary use of materials.
The theories and philosophy of the Constructivists that irradiated from the
newborn Soviet Russia, become points of reference for the further
development of arts and crafts during the whole century.
They where judged by their ideology, no less than by their works.
They were bon out of controversy when the Pevsner-Gabo Rationalist
Manifesto talked about a revolution in forms and concepts, but also see
other aesthetic revolutions (Cubism and Futurism among them) as obsolete
The same way as action leads to reaction, Constructivism leaded to a new,
open and striking world of forms: the Deconstructivism.
As S. O. Khan-Mahomedov writes in 1970: ”Soviet architecture-the first
truly socialist architecture-emerged during a period of tremendous upheaval.
The years of dynamic regeneration were from 1917 to 1930, when a relative
small number of architects developed an architecture that had worldwide
From the Realistic Manifesto;
In spite of the demand of the renascent spirit of our time, Art is still nourished by
impression, external appearance, and wanders helplessly back and forth from Naturalism to Symbolism, from Romanticism to Mysticism.
The attempts of the Cubists and the Futurists to lift the visual arts from the bogs of the past have led only to new delusions.
Neither Futurism nor Cubism has brought us what our time has expected of them.
Beside those two artistic schools our recent past has had nothing of importance or deserving any attention.
The realization of our perceptions of the world in the farms of space and time is the only aim of our pictorial and plastic art.
- Thence in painting we renounce colour as a pictorial element, colour is the idealized optical surface of objects; an exterior and superficial impression of them; colour is accidental and it has nothing in common with the innermost essence o a thing.
We afirm that the tone o a substattce…is its only pictorial reality.
/… / Descriptiveness is an element of graphic illustration and decoration.
- We renounce the thousand-year-old delusion in art that held the static rhythms as the only elements of the plastic and pictorial arts.
We affirm in these arts a new element: the kinetic rhythms as the basis forms of our perception of real time.
Five years before the brothers Pevsner and Gabo launched their manifesto,
Kasimir Malevich wrote his work about Suprematism. This first statements
give the two a battle field in which they spread their armies in the form of
affirmation of new elements, but also denying the Cubistic and Futuristic heritage as something inadequate to rule the new directions in art and
Aaron Starve, as many other scholars, dot think twice before using the
term “Red” when he refers to Constructivism, and makes clear that the roots
of the movement, deep in the social awareness of the co-founders, are
socialistic and revolutionary.
While he was in New York, in the middle of his own battle against pre-concepts on political art, and before his friend and protégée Leon Trotsky was murdered by Stalin in Mexico, Diego Rivera writes about the
role that Russian avant-garde choose to play in the Revolution,
[.,.] [Russian avant-garde artists] carried on a truly heroic struggle to make that art accessible to the Russian masses. They worked under conditions of famine, the strain of revolution and counter revolution, and all the material and economic difficulties imaginable, yet they failed completely in their attempts to persuade the masses to accept Cubism, or Futurisrn, or Constructivism as the art
of the proletariat.
At the pinnacle of McCarthyism in USA, the legendary Alfred Barr is the
paladin of the arts, without any contemplation of politics, religion or
geography, and writes one of the most important testimonies of the 30s
about art, fixing the Constructivism into the most important tradition of
The years after WWII gave a push to new search in artistic language,
seeing the movement that lead to abstract at the beginning of the century, as
We believe that it is at the margin of official abstract art, and only there, that
the most valuable works develop, just as it was at the margin of
Impressionism during the last century that the greatness of the works of
those great heretics, van Gogh and Gauguin, was established.
Although painting and sculpture where not ends in themselves according to the tenets of Constructivist realism, they where looked as an important
part of the processes through which architecture or industrial products were fully realised. This situation of total art was the essence of Lissitsky’s conception of the proud. This was the concept of the systematic creative evolution beginning with the flat idea, followed by the three-dimensional model and finally the total realisation in the construction of utilitarian objects. On sum, proun was a systematic method of work leading to a very calculate and programmed result.