Names for this body of work have changed over the decades. Charles Biederman (1960-2004), one of the best-know artists represented here, used the term Constructionism to describe his work, something related to and yet distinct from the Russian avant-garde art movement of the 1910s and 1920s known as Constructivism. Later, the term Structurism was used. By the late 1970s, however, Biederman settled on the simpler term: New Art.
Though the names have changed over time, the core themes remain constant: a distillation of color and form to their very simplest elements. The results are at once lyrical and bold, subtle yet forceful. These constructed reliefs demand the viewer's direct engagement. They can only be fully appreciated as one moves from side to side and notices the subtle shifts in composition, shadow, light and surface. These artists revered Cezanne, who painted nature not as a precise recording of a scene, but as a composition of juxtaposed patches of color and surface. This planar construction became a touchstone for artists such as Jean Gorin, Eli Bornstein, Joost Baljeu and the husband-and-wife team of Mary and Kenneth Martin. Concerned with technical as well as conceptual issues, these artists gravitated toward mathematics and the study of nature. Charles Biederman called the result "the art of pure creation." Irrespective of any one philosophy or stylistic source, this was truly an international movement of artists from Canada, England, Europe, Latin America, and the United States who became fascinated with geometric abstraction. It was an aesthetic which yielded connections to the painters Victor Vasarely, Alan D'Arcangelo, and Agostino Bonalumi, who are also featured in this installation.
Maurice Lipschultz, a Chicago businessman, and his wife Sarah formed this collection in the 1960s and early 1970s as the work was being created. A group of 55 Constructed Reliefs were given to the Museum in 1986. It is a refreshing and rich legacy that recalls a period when an international group of artists were deeply committed to a radical transformation of their environment.