Thursday, January 29, 2009

Some thoughts on Mondrian

Detail, Mondrian, Composition in Red, Blue, Black, Yellow and Gray, 1921 (MOMA).
(Click for larger image).

I've been thinking about Mondrian lately and how touchingly intimate his classic paintings are. In spite of the myth, I experience them very much as hand-made objects. The brushwork is obvious (see above), and even though the paintings are geometric and harmoniously balanced there's an arbitrariness about them such that you know a human being has made willful decisions here -- they're not experienced as pre-determined or random. Even his colors aren't truly primary but veer off into secondary ranges. All this and the small scale, and even the hand-made frames (see top), make the work seem so hand-made, so human.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Kessler (Charles),
We met on Pepe's line yesterday; I saw no way to simply email you to say how lovely it was to meet you & your wife & to chat the hour or so of waiting away. So, I've taken the liberty to use this comment space to do so.
Also, I read your comments about Mondrian & thought them wonderfully expressed. I look forward to carefully looking at your work on line.

Anonymous said...

I remember an art history professor describing Mondrian's painting process. His pictures were completely handmade. He struggled over each one, getting it just so. He used colored tapes like other painters might use pencil drawing. He sat and looked at his work, getting up to move a tape a little this way or that way until he felt it was just right. When I see a Mondrian today, I feel that process in the paintings. They feel handmade and electric.