Antoine Pevsner b. 1886, Oryol, Russia; d. 1962, Paris
Marble, brass painted black, and crystal
33 5/16 inches (84.6 cm) long, diagonally
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1976
2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: David Heald
In 1920 Antoine Pevsner signed the Realistic Manifesto drafted by his brother Naum Gabo, proclaiming the intention of Constructivism as they conceived it. They sought to translate their apprehension of an absolute and essential reality as “the realization of our perceptions of the world in the forms of space and time.”¹ They believed that space was given form through implications of depth rather than volume, and they rejected mass as the basic sculptural element. Line, rendered dynamic through directionality, established kinetic rhythms. The Constructivists advocated the use of contemporary industrial materials; they did not carve or model these materials according to sculptural conventions, but constructed them according to principles of modern technology. In their words, “The plumb-line in our hand, eyes as precise as a ruler, in a spirit as taut as a compass . . . we construct our work as the universe constructs its own, as the engineer constructs his bridges, as the mathematician his formula of the orbits.”²
In this work Pevsner complicates the delineation of space by using a transparent substance in conjunction with opaque materials. The glass panes echo both the rounded excised outlines of the construction and its angular metal surfaces. The metal ribs anchor the panes of glass and hinge all planes, real and imagined, resulting in a complex structuring of space. Furthermore, they function visually as an Orthodox cross. The icons of Pevsner’s native Russia, which had played a crucial role in the development of his notions of perspective, may have suggested the form.
1. Russian Art of the Avant-Garde: Theory and Criticism, 1902–1934, The Documents of Twentieth-Century Art, ed. J. E. Bowlt, New York, 1976, p. 213. The entire manifesto, translated by Gabo, appears in this volume.