Dick van Woerkom, Jean Gorin, Charles Biederman, Joost Baljeu, Structure
In 1962 the Sikkens Prize was awarded to a party of five: visual artists Jean Gorin, Charles Biederman and Joost Baljeu, architect Dick van Woerkom and the journal Structure (1958-1964), founded by Baljeu. They received the prize for the revival of constructivism and the presentation of universal laws in the line of De Stijl with the aim of achieving the complete renovation of our social environment, from the home to the city.
The 1962 winners of the Sikkens Prize were linked by (neo)-constructivism which is an extension of De Stijl and Malevich. The four artists were also represented at the exhibition ‘Experiment in construction’, which took place a year earlier in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. They also all appear in the journal Structure. When the Sikkens Prize was awarded to Structure c.s., the commission’s reasons were formulated as follows: “we are happy with this revival of constructivism and are awarding this third Sikkens Prize along the lines of the two previous ones: Rietveld – spatial colorism – Structure.”
This English language internationally-oriented journal focuses on the synthesis between architecture and the visual arts. It opposed the “wave of unbridled chaos which overwhelmed postwar visual arts”, and a stand was taken against the “art for art’s sake” attitude which, according to the editors, characterized Tachism, Action Painting, Brutalism and Neo-Realism. Instead they adopted a positive point of view with the conviction that it was possible to rebuild the world and the aim was to achieve this by an increasingly far-reaching synthesis of the arts. The underlying aim was the integration of art and society in which abstract harmony was to be conceived as a metaphor for a happy modern society.
Experiment in construction
In the before mentioned exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam eight artists from different countries, who were all working in the neoconstructivist style, were exhibited at this exhibition. Their abstract–geometric paintings, sculptures and maquettes closely resembled each other. Joost Baljeu was one of the organizers and published the text ‘The new visual expression’ in the exhibition catalogue, revealing a changing view of reality: Nature as a visible reality was no longer the starting point for this new art, rather the expression of universal laws, immaterial principles of form which are the foundation of the cosmos. This new visual expression was not a reflection of this reality, but translated it: a process of intense internalization. It did not create forms, but plastic relationships. The new visual expression was positive. Instead of looking for the self, it presented the individual as part of society and every contribution to society as the highest aim. It is for this reason that the new visual expression was at the same time preparing for the general renewal of our social environment: from the home to the city.