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Spatial Composition (4)
This construction is one of a series of works that Katarzyna Kobro produced during the 1920s, while she was a member of the Polish Constructivist movement. The constructions also embody utopian aspirations generated by her own experience of the Russian Revolution and her profound knowledge of avant-garde ideas. These were inspired by her studies with both Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin, before she moved to Poland in 1923 with her husband, the painter Władisław, Strzemiński.

Spatial Composition (4), like others in the series, reveals her belief that the fundamental problem of sculpture was the expression of spatial relationships. She also gave her works a strong mathematical and industrial resonance, evoking the efficiency of the New Man and the tempo of Taylor’s principles of time and motion by using his calculations and diagrams as the basis for her compositions. Her sculptures were based on a modular system. It used a ratio of 5:8 derived from the progression of numbers known as the Fibonacci series, developed by Leonardo of Pisa.

Some of the constructions were completely white, perhaps in accordance with Malevich’s identification of white with infinity. Others, such as this piece, were coloured (using the De Stijl palette of the three primaries, plus grey and black). This destroyed their optical unity, dematerialised the planes and intensified the sense of spatial flow. Sometimes each side of the same plane was given a different colour. These strategies encouraged the spectator to move around the sculpture and experience its spatial and temporal rhythms.

Kobro was convinced that her work could lead to improved design in the wider world. In 1937 she wrote, ‘The task of a spatial composition is the shaping of forms, which can be translated into life. The spatial composition is a laboratory experiment that will define the architecture of future cities.’ Accordingly, in 1932-4 she based her Design for a Functional Nursery School on Spatial Composition (8) of 1932.

‘Spatial Composition (4)’
Katarzyna Kobro (1898-1951)
Painted steel
40 x 64 x 40 cm
Muzeum Sztuki Łódz, gift of the artist
Museum no. MS/SN/R/18
Click on the image to see an enlarged version

Image 1

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Modernism: Designing A New World 1914 - 19396 April - 23 July 2006sponsored by Habitat
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