Times & Places

Abstraction and the Applied Arts

During the interwar years, movements developed that promoted extremely abstract styles. Among the most important of these was the Dutch De Stijl (“The Style”) movement and the Russian constructivist and suprematist movements. Founded in the wake of world warfare, and in the case of Russia a major political revolution, these movements looked to a utopian future for inspiration. Liberated from the traditions of the past, participants like Piet Mondrian and Gerrit Rietveld in the Netherlands and Kasimir Malevich, El Lissitzky, and Wassily Kandinsky in Russia practiced a reductivist aesthetic in which form was stripped to its bare necessities and color restricted to white, black, gray, and the primaries. Ornament was rejected so that the underlying form could be seen in its “pure” state.

Adapted from

Charles Venable, wall text from the 11/18/2001 to 5/20/2002 exhibition“Art Deco and Streamlined Modern Design, 1920-1950”