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Abstraction. Kandinsky, Mondrian


Kandinsky (Russian, working life, 1900-44) is called (by some) "the father of abstraction" and given credit for the first comepletely abstract (non-representational?, non-figurative?) painting. Composition VII (1913) features swirling soft organic shapes; by the time of Composition VIII (1923), K. had moved to hard-edged geometric shapes, later deemed "cold abstraction". Both types were highly influential on different and disparate groups of artists for the next two or three generations as the exploration of the abstract broadened and deepened into post-war Abstract Expressionism in America and "lyrical abstraction", "art naturel" etc. in Europe. Gorky, Miro, Klee, George Matthieu ...

Mondrian ( Dutch, De Stihl, working life 1887-1944) worked systermatically thru Ducth Luminism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Cubism on his path to pure abstraction, and by the 1920s achieved his distinctive retangular black-lined grids with bold primary color blocks. (see ). In his wake may be found a string of influence whose many strands iinclude advertising and popular culture.

Tracing the influences of "sharp" or "cold" abstraction in painting.. post-war.. Pollack, Franz Klein, Motherwell, .. and Rothko, Newman, and then toward the lyrical, Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, .. the Washington Color School.. (more)

But to me the most radical abstraction, and departure from the traditions of painting was provided by Kandinsky's contemporary, Malevich (( ) White on White ( ) and Black Square ( ). And then, in 1921, his colleague A. Rodchenko declared an end to painting by reducing it to the three primary colors.. Pure Red Color, Pure Yellow Color, Pure Blue Color.

They are both, it seems to me, direct progenitors of the Conceptual and Minimal movements in the 60's onward.

Perhaps the key difference is that, unlike the other two "secular" artists commenting on the limits of painting, Kandinsky and Mondrian were seeking the spiritual in pure color and form-- universal harmony and balance, a new universal language for Mondrian, influenced by his affiliation (beginning in 1909) with the Theosophical Society (and its Buddhist beliefs. Kandinsky's similar idealism and spiritual quest grew out of his love of music as the pure abstract art (and possible synesthesia) manifested in intricate "scores" of form and color.

Rothko and many others continued the quest..

the subject of my next post.

What's so spiritual about abstraction-- is this a search for God, or Divine Essence?

Is it a path a viewer can follow, or a solipsistic journey by the artist?

#artspeakes #artnotes

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