Collection

Liubov Popova. Painterly Architectonic. 1917 537

Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 38 5/8" (80 x 98 cm). Philip Johnson Fund

Curator, Leah Dickerman: In 1912 and 1913 Lyubov Popova studied in Paris. So she was very familiar with the developments of Cubism. She also made trips to Italy where she saw Futurist work firsthand. But unlike either Cubism or Futurism she really takes a jump and severs this connection with the visual world to try to make truly abstract pictures.

This picture was made in 1917, the very year of the Russian Revolution, which shook the established order of things at its foundation. And Popova, like many of the other artists of the Russian avant-garde, ended up allying herself with the new Bolshevik government.

If you were going to have a revolution you'd have to start over from the beginning. So there's this idea that painting could serve as a special kind of laboratory or incubator space for developing ideas about what the visual forms of this new world might look like. And in this she finds the metaphor of architecture very helpful. And the series of work she made in 1916 and 1917, Painterly Architectonic, she develops her own style of painting where she layers these skewed geometric forms on top of each other to create these very dynamic, brightly colored compositions.

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