Lyubov Popova Space-Force Construction 1921

Lyubov Popova
Space-Force Construction 1921
Collection of Aleksandr Smuzikov, Moscow

INKhUK, an interdisciplinary research institute, was established in May 1920, to analyse the principles underlining contemporary art. It was soon dominated by the Constructivists, led by Rodchenko. In a series of debates, they rejected ideas of ‘Composition’ – a subjective approach to art that expressed the personality of the artist, guided by ideas of taste and emotions – in favour of ‘Construction’, a more impersonal method dictated by the materials at hand and stripped of anything decorative or unnecessary.

Popova’s Space-Force Constructions were made in response. Geometric forms are set out on plywood or cardboard rather than canvas, and sprinkled with wooden dust that emphasises the solid physicality of the painted surface. In some works, the shifting planes bring out their relationship to Cubism, while others emphasise clearly delineated lines, suggesting powerful constructions or diagonal grids.

Rodchenko’s own investigations placed a particular emphasis on the line as the sole essential element in a work of art. Colour, tone, texture and surface, he argued, could all be eliminated as mere decoration, or as techniques for imitating the appearance of things.

Ultimately, the Constructivists concluded, Construction was not just an aesthetic style that could be represented on canvas, but an approach to materials that was irreconcilable with the two-dimensional medium of painting.