Constructivism: Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge


El Lissitzky, Beat The Whites With The Red Wedge, 1919.

El Lissitzky’s Beat The Whites With The Red Wedge is a good example how one uses the geometrical shapes to express the idea of conflict in term of minimalist approach. Overall, Lissitzky’s work is considered political. Patrick Burgoyne (2008, pg. 1) explained that the visual “representing the (red) Bolsheviks driving out the (white) imperial regime” during the time of Russia’s civil war. The simple geometrical shapes symbolize Lissitzky’s political vision and his interpretation on the issue of conflict. David Raizman (2004, pg. 174) suggests that “the division of the poster further pits left against right and the diagonal composition and direction gives the wedges a decided ‘upper’ hand as well.”

The overall black and white division can be seen as “the split of society”(Lewis and Lewis, 2013, pg. 427) at that time. In term of graphic mnemonics, the conflict situation can be understood through the penetration of red color triangles. The ‘main force’ that led by the biggest triangle breaking through white circular negative space symbolizes a party’s victory; furthermore it allows the other smaller, scattered triangles to move on. The angular dynamic is opposite to the stabile nature of the white circle. In addition to this, I believe penetration of red triangle is unprecedented as the white circle symbolizes the focus of the black wall. The metaphors perhaps are used to depict certain political scenes.

Raizman, David (2004) History of Modern Design: Graphics and Products Since the Industry Revolution. London: Laurence King Publishing

Lewis, Richard and Lewis, Susan (2013) The Power of Art. Boston: Cengage Learning

Burgoyne, Patrick (2008) ‘Constructivism: The Ism That Just Keep Giving’, Constructed: 40 Years of the UEA Collection, August issue. Available at:


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