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The avant-garde generally gravitates toward absolutes; you’re either with them or against them. But how often in history has progressive art been created in service of the state’s one-size-fits-all ideology? Not many, and perhaps the best-known example is the group that appeared in a brief window of time between Old World czars and the iron fist of Josef Stalin: the Russian Constructivists.

Flourishing for more than a decade in the wake of the 1917 October revolution, they were part of the larger bonfire of European Modernism. Instead of springing out of elitist manifestos written in smoke-filled salons, though, this group of forward-looking artists saw themselves as being at one with the masses, creating for the working people and the state. As leading Constructivist Vladmir Tatlin once said, their goal must be to take “Art into Life.”

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