Hans Richter’s “Toward Constructivism” (1924)
Translated from the German by David Britt. From Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of
Central European Avant-Gardes, 1910-1930. (The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA: 2002).
• • •
The word Constructivism originated in Russia. It refers to art that uses modern construction materials in place of conventional materials and that follows constructional goals. At the congress in Düsseldorf in May 1920, Doesburg, Lissitzky, and I took up the name Constructivism in a broader sense than the opposition. What is operating under that name today no longer has anything to do with elementary design, our dictate for the congress. The name Constructivism was taken up at that time as the watchword of those who sought rules for artistic expression and tasks that make sense for our time — opposed by a majority at that congress of individualists (see the report on the congress in De Stijl 5, no. 4).
Meanwhile the art market and oil painters have adopted the name, and the individualists, the deal-makers, the oil painters, the decorativists, and the speculators all now march under the name Constructivism. — As long as the slogan is fashionable. — It seems as if it may already be passé, at least the sprinter Moholy-Nagy, who has a sensitive nose for such things, has occasionally referred to himself as a Suprematist in Das Kunstblatt; perhaps he’ll have more luck with that than with the Constructivists of yore.
[Originally published as “An den Konstructivismus,” in G no. 3 (June 1924)]