Artwork Detail

Bas-relief en creux (Sunken Bas-relief)
French, b. Russia, 1886–1962
Relief in brass and bronze
23 5/8 x 24 5/16 x 13 1/8 "
University purchase, McMillan Fund, 1946
WU 3776
© Antoine Pevsner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
In the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Russian Constructivists sought to align their artistic practices with the revolutionary government that was engendering hope for a more just society. Excited by industrialization and new technologies, avant-garde artists began to think of art and artistic production as a way of constructing new worlds. Much emphasis was put on objects that shape architectural space and, by extension, societal conventions. Antoine Pevsner’s Bas-relief en creux (Sunken Bas Relief) and Naum Gabo’s Linear Construction in Space No. 1 (Variation) (WU 4285) are rooted in this tradition. These artists, who were also brothers, understood time, space, light, and movement to be integral elements of modern sculpture. Pevsner’s structure is reminiscent of an engine or a mechanical apparatus. Inside the brass and bronze box intersecting axes of two folded metallic sheets culminate in a center cross with a dynamic forward thrust. Gabo’s work is also conceived around a central opening, incorporating the void as a material element of the sculpture. The ultramodern, translucent materials he employs—Perspex acrylic for the frame supporting stretched nylon monofilaments—work to dematerialize mass and surface while also underscoring the artist’s utopian ideal of providing a conduit to a “new reality”—a universal one. [Permanent collection label, 2017]