Click the play button to hear this story!

There is a reason these three works of art have been placed together in this corner of the gallery. The makers of this art were all, in different ways, influenced by the early Soviet artist Vladimir Tatlin. In 1915, Tatlin was part of an exhibition called The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10. On display were some of his sculptures that he described as “corner counter-reliefs”, which were found objects and materials like glass, brass fittings, and steel suspended from wires in the corners of the galleries. Inspired by Tatlin, Alexander Calder, now American art royalty, produced similar art in Paris, France in 1932.

In 1920, Tatlin helped found a movement called Constructivism. Its focus was on how art and architecture could celebrate the industrial ingenuity and prowess of the new Soviet Union. The best example of their ideals was a structure formerly called Tatlin Tower, a 20-foot-tall wooden model of a proposed tower called the Communist Third International was to be made of glass and steel and stand 1300 feet high, which would have made it the tallest building in the world at the time. Unfortunately, the Soviets were severely short on cash and it was never built. In fact, Tatlin Tower itself was dismantled. Constructivism had what could be called a “machine aesthetic”, with an emphasis on modular fabrication and the use of industrial materials. It took a while, but this approach to art eventually turned up in American art in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Sculptors like Donald Judd and Carl Andre began using industrial processes to make their art. They created objects completely removed from the artist’s hand, meaning artists drew up their plans and sent them off to a factory to produce them. This process was hands off, an aloof approach to art making. Morton Rachofsky takes this even further with Cuboid Series F. Here, the literal composition of the sculpture is left to the curator to position. The artist’s hand is not needed at any point in the process.

Another tenet of Constructivism is that the artworks function dictates what materials the artist chooses. With Painting 1971 J. Jay McVicker’s intention is to fool the eye into observing movement when there is none. This is typical of Op Art or Optical Art and is achieved with extremely precise shapes and contrasting colors. It is a form of kinetic art, although an implied one rather than an actual, moving artwork.