November 17, 2010

El Lissitzky Was The Suprematist Leo Leonni

ellissitsky_2.jpg

Seriously. In addition to evangelizing the Russian brand of Constructivism across post-WWI Europe, El Lissitzky illustrated Yiddish children's books. I'll be looking for some of those. [aha, thanks, Lorenzo de Medici!]

Also this delightful bedtime favorite, Suprematist Story of Two Squares In Six Constructions, in which the red and black square "unite to join [sic] the revolutionary cause."

Which sounds very make glorious revolution and all, except that a A closer reading of the actual story has the red confronting the black in chaos, constructing a giant tower on it, and chasing the rest of the black off the planet. Guess we showed those capitalist bastards, eh, comrade?

First printed in Russia in 1920, the book was published in two tiny, signed editions in 1922: in Berlin and as part of the Dutch journal De Stijl, where it was retitled, Of Two Squares. Facsimile editions with translations are, thankfully, available.

Oh, I'm sorry, did I say "fortunately"? I meant insanely expensively. The 1991 MIT reprints start at $175. Yeah, capitalism!

Citrinitas has a nice scan of the original, which they alone call "The story of the little red square." [citrinitas via 2 or 3 things]
Suprematicheskii Skaz/ About 2 Squares By El Lissitzky [ibiblio.org]
Buy About 2 Squares + More About 2 Squares if you dare. [amazon]

5 Comments

you are gonna mock me for being the specific hipster-jew-parent cliche i am, but for the last seven years my fantasy tattoo has been the hebrew letter mem on one forearm and the hebrew letter yud on the other, to represent the names of my kids, rendered in lissitsky's awesome lettering from had gadya. i have the reprint edition Getty Research put out a few years ago. (it's available on amazon, fyi.) you can get a sense of the fabulous lettering from the cover. inside, the letters are heavy on the red, gold and green -- which are not the colors of my dreams, alas.

Ah yes, the hipster jew parent tattoo cliche strikes again!

Interesting. Also red and black are the colors of anarcho-syndicalism, still popular with punkrockers all over the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-syndicalism. Thus, the book may be seen as a fight of communist against anarcho-syndicalistic tendencies and not against capitalism. But, whatever ;-)

Aha, I like your explanation better, comrade.

i own this piece of art with the black and red squares....Is this worth anything? i have had it for many years.
thanks

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