Modern Art Monday Presents: El Lissitzky, Beat the Whites With the Red Wedge

beat the whites with the red wedge photo by gail worley
Photo By Gail

El Lissitzky (18901941) created the poster Beat the Whites With the Red Wedge (191920) in Vitebsk (a city in northeast Belarus, known as the birthplace of Marc Chagall). It is an early example of agitprop (Soviet political propaganda) that uses abstraction. The work was produced during the Russian Civil War (191821) in support of the Red Army and the young Soviet government in their struggle against anti-Bolshevik White forces. In the middle of the composition, a revolutionary red triangle drives into a white circle on a black background. The symbolic significance of these forms — emphasized by the scattered Russian words for wedge, red, beat, and whites — would have been easily understood by the artist’s contemporaries.

Photographed in the Jewish Museum in Manhattan.

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