November 16, 2018

Lissitsky’s Intersectionality

Can geometry and colour be the only elements that can make up art? The truth is that aesthetics is a truly difficult thing to understand, especially when it is directed towards the fostering of pure artistic feeling. Suprematism, as we have come to know it was first introduced by Malevich whose Socialist rhetoric found a well meaning place within the ever changing world of modern art in the early 1920’s. Yet, not so many people know that El Lissitzky, a Jew, also played a substantial role to its foundation.

Lissitzky who first took part in the world of artistry by designing the art in Jewish children’s books, as a means to sustain himself, held true to the goal oriented formation of art. In other words the belief that it had a sustained meaning regardless of form or medium. This is perhaps why he later worked on numerous Soviet propaganda posters, although in his own way, still with the sheer purpose of simple purpose, as was/is the traditional tenet of utilitarian Socialism.

Born in 1890, in Polchinok, Smolensk his childhood was normal for that of a child who grew up in a Eastern European shtetl. He was an industrious and bright adolescent, in fact to the extent that by the age of 15 he was already teaching others. Yet, his precocity and ability to to draw had forced a desire in him to study at the prestigious art academy of St. Petersburg- something which he almost achieved. Although he had passed his exam and had met the necessary requirements the academy turned him away because they would only accept a certain number of students.

There was only one choice: to leave.

Similar to many Jewish and non-Jewish artists from Russia, Lissitzky traveled to Germany in order to be able to gain an education in the less anti-semitic setting of pre-1914 Germany. Incidentally, a place where art was found in much more open medium, and better said, a place where it could expand freely without the long reach of government autocracy.

Germany was a harbour of free artistry, yet also a place where one could create ties with other artists interested in the same movements, styles and means. For instance, it was a place where El Lissitsky formed close ties with famous people such as Marc Chagall. Yet the prospects of Germany did not last long, as the Russian Revolution yielded the return of many artist to their original homes, as the brief freedom given to artistry in the early 1920’ s allowed many to express themselves as they did in Germany.