Liubov Popova. 1889-1924

18 december, 1991 - 17 february, 1992 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 4
Liubov Popova. Painterly Architectonic (Still Life: Instruments), 1915. Oil on canvas. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Liubov Popova. Painterly Architectonic (Still Life: Instruments), 1915. Oil on canvas. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

There was constant desire to develop a new and absolute artistic language throughout the different art movements of the early twentieth century, especially those which end up linked to political projects. The principles of universality and overcoming mimetic art which these avant-garde trends are governed by, suppose an experimental review of the actual artistic components. In the Russian art scene of the first quarter of the century Liubov Popova (Ivanovskoe, Russia, 1889 - Moscow, 1924) stands out because of her dedication to the pursuit of an artistic vocabulary that would respond to the principles of Constructivism from the pictorial scene. She understood that pictorial construction was a precursor to real three-dimensional construction. The exhibition aims to highlight Popova as an artist-painter and not as an artist-engineer, posture and attitude that most of her peers adopt, according to the new ideal of post-revolutionary Soviet society. Despite this, as noted Magdalena Davroski, curator of the exhibition: "components of her concept of "construction" are essentially the traditional tools of every artist, but she interprets them as real materials."

Popova’s brief career is synthesised in two stages: the adoption of the Cubist vocabulary and the development of language which is non-objective, and constructivist. Art magazines and Sergei Shchukin’s collection educates her on the current Cubist trends, which inspires her, like many other contemporary artists, to travel to Paris in 1913. There she enrols in Jean Metzinger and Henri Le Fauconnier’s academy but also, at this point, she changes her pictorial discourse, because it is her desire is to develop an expressive language that "is the result of a manipulation of pictorial elements onto the surface" as noted by Dabrowski and illustrated in her piece Naked woman sitting (1913-1914). At the same time, she adopts certain assumptions on Futurism, especially the breakdown of forms in space practiced by Umberto Boccioni. In addition, she starts dabbling in experimentations with textures (she introduces marble dust and sand) in order to stimulate the surface of the painting and give it density. Gradually, the themes and figures assume a supporting role in the work.

Back in Russia, Popova theoretically confronts her paintings with Vladimir Tatlin’s counter-reliefs and the work of Kazimir Malevich, whose influence is found in her pieces (constructive assembly, colour planes in space), and reaches the artistic independence and maturity in her Spatial Architectures series (1916-1917), pieces that are now completely non-objective. Popova participates in Russian avant-garde debates on the validity of non-objective language and concepts of construction and composition. From that moment the experimental nature of her work is emphasised, her interests are steered towards the behaviour of the line in space and she develops her Linear compositions. In 1921 she creates her Spatial construction or Dynamic-spatial constructions, which bring innovations regarding form, space and materials. Although she is not in favour of Productivism, she feels conditioned to put her work to the service of industry and began a career as a textile, set and costume designer.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museum of Modern Art, New York, in collaboration with Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Magdalena Dabrowski
Exhibition Tour: 

Museum of Modern Art, New York (February 14 — April 23, 1991); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (June 19 — August 18, 1991); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (October 1 — December 1, 1991)

Liubov Popova