Jacqueline Gourevitch reflects on Piet Mondrian’s Oval with Colored Planes (1914) in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Gourevitch writes: "for the sheer immediacy of seeing what lies at the heart of making a painting, I turn to this early Mondrian. I want to look closely at how this painted surface, devoid of representational content or narrative, manifests and embodies its own unique, complex meaning. This Mondrian has a marvelous, lilting, adventurousness to it: an improvisational, searching liveliness. These are life enhancing qualities. The oval hovers just above the bottom edge of the canvas. Equidistant from right and left, it appears to sway slightly. It floats. It breathes. It is alive and has a pulse."
Zlotowitz writes that the show "[takes] the artist’s creative evolution and exposition as its starting point. Initially starting his career painting in the Impressionist style, this exhibition of Mondrian’s work dedicates itself to showcasing the artist’s career and subsequent development of his unique stylistic innovations. With over 50 drawings and paintings, the journey through Mondrian’s career is exposed through his many lenses and creative phases."
Smith begins: "The longer I look at Mondrian’s paintings, the more I see in them. This applies to lots of art, but I think Mondrian built real time into his paintings. They unfold with unusual deliberation in a semblance of symmetry and order that is actually precarious, even volatile. This is especially true of his mature works from the late 1920s to the early 1940s, with their tensile fusions of glowing white backgrounds, black scaffoldings and blocks of bright primaries. Everything about them, the tiniest decision, is evident and has visual repercussions."
Charles Darwent writes about the unique role that Mondrian's various studios played in his painting process. The exhibition Mondrian and His Studios is on view at Tate Liverpool, through October 5, 2014.
Darwent notes that "Piet Mondrian’s paintings have become some of the best known and most loved works of the twentieth century, and the studios in which he created them - in Amsterdam, Paris, London and New York - were incredibly important in the process, with the walls often covered in coloured cards to aid him in his vision. As one critic has noted, these spaces were ‘an experimental expansion of the work and the condition for its accomplishment’ ... [Ben Nicholson recollected that Mondrian's Paris] studio had a black floor, and white walls on which the ageing artist, 62 at the time of Nicholson’s visit, pinned cardboard rectangles of primary colours that he could move around at will. Which is to say that Mondrian’s studio looked very much like a Mondrian canvas, except in three dimensions... For Mondrian... the act of painting and the space painted in were one and the same thing."
In an article from a special issue devoted to Ad Reinhardt, Margit Rowell examines the similarities and differences in Mondrian and Reinhardt's approaches to color.
Rowell writes: "For Reinhardt, as for Mondrian, the penultimate experiment with non-color incited a return to vibrant primary hues. But Mondrian combined the primaries within a single composition, while Reinhardt restricted himself in each painting to chromatic variations on a single hue. The return to limited color brought with it an increased and explicit attention to light. Mondrian trapped light on his surface through the textural fabric of his brushwork. However, texture and brush-stroke carried connotations of the 'handwriting' of Abstract Expressionism for Reinhardt. Thus he thinned his paint radically, superimposing layer upon layer of color, until not a trace of hand or brush remained. Still, an incandescent glow emerges from the depths of the resulting color haze. 'Not colored light,” as Reinhardt wrote in 1966 to Sam Hunter, 'but color that gives off light.' "
After revisting the show in detail, Halasz concludes: "for all its conceptual flaws, [the exhibition] still offers much to see & enjoy. I can see many reasons why the show’s organizers rejected all the semi-abstract work that I miss, and why they included so many examples of experiments, however inadequate these experiments may have been purely as art. These organizers opted for breadth as opposed to depth... instead of telling the more moving & illuminating story about how so many top-notch artists at the nerve centers in Western Europe evolved from the representational to the semi-abstract and then (sometimes but not always) to the purely abstract, creating fine art all along the way."
Tamar Zinn considers the limitations and potential of painting in black and white.
Zinn writes that "painting in black and white is not the same as thinking in black and white. By painting in black and white, the artist has pared down one part of image-making -- color choice, but rather than certainty we are offered a range of possibilities. Is the blackness something concrete or is it atmospheric? Does whiteness always connote a void? Can blackness and whiteness possess many of the same qualities? And of course, labeling colors simply as 'black' or 'white' is simplistic, as there are many variations of blackness and whiteness. Although the palette is limited to black and white, the experience of seeing is complex."
David Sweet looks at the role of detail in abstract painting through the work of Robert Holyhead, Mali Morris, and Juan Usle.
Sweet writes that unlike these painters "there are plenty of current practitioners whose work, which is abstract by default, contains lots of superimposed, busy, ornamental passages, but who treat detail casually, as though it is a relatively trivial matter. In an era of high definition, however, the resolution which detail brings, whether handled intelligently or not, appears to be an increasingly important, even essential part of a contemporary pictorial strategy."
A must read article by painter Alan Gouk on the work of Piet Mondrian and Ben Nicholson, on view in the exhibition Mondrian, Nicholson: In Parallel at The Courtauld Gallery, London, on view through May 20, 2012.
Gouk offers an insightful analysis of the work of each artist as well as a comparison of their work, ultimately expressing a preference for Nicholson: "Do I think Nicholson's aesthetic carries greater potential for the future/present of painting? In its openness to sensuous experience and the light of the natural world, in its sublimated cursiveness (in these particular pictures), in its 'carving' of space... in its improvisory fusion of the physicality of making with the optics of planar construction, certainly."
Nelkin writes that "The exhibition explores the creative relationship between Piet Mondrian and Ben Nicholson... When Nicholson first visited Mondrian's studio in 1934 he had to rest in a café afterwards to try to take in what he had just seen – the elegant serenity of the works, the ambience of the studio and the energy of Mondrian himself. This visit marked the beginning of a fascinating friendship that lasted until Mondrian’s death."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.