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New Book Examines Avant-garde Textiles

Curator Julia Tulovsky presents textile designers of the 1920s.

Costume design by Varvara Stepanova (1922), Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum.

Russian constructivism proposed the ideology of “production art,” that is, art with the practical purpose of changing society for the better. Abstract geometric compositions, often considered the pillar of high art, were instead gaining new ground in industrial designs. With artists like Liubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova pioneering the movement with their fabric designs at the Tsindel textile factory, simplicity and respect for materials were introduced, granting access to “elite culture” to the proletariat.

“Avant-Garde Textiles: Designs for Fabric,” recently published by TATLIN, examines the textile design of several artists in Russia and Europe from the mid-1920s. These designs, united by striking visual similarities, put forward a new artistic language that anticipated future experiments in modernism, in particular, op art and minimalism.

Author Julia Tulovsky focuses on work by Popova and Stepanova in Moscow, and Sonia Delaunay in Paris, analyzing similarities between the Russian constructivists and Delaunay. It explores how their geometric patterns were adapted to the drastically different social and economic conditions of Bolshevik Moscow and Paris of the Art Deco epoch. By the end of the 1920s, the new geometric style in textiles had grown into an international movement, infiltrating everyday life and greatly influencing people’s tastes. “Avant-Garde Textiles: Designs for Fabric” contains more than 250 illustrations, many of which are published for the first time.

Julia Tulovsky is Curator for Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University. She will be presenting her book, followed by a signing, at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts on Dec. 22.