I woke up today on the Upper West Side. Before you get any ideas, it happened that my sister was in town and I crashed with her after finding out that my train was not running (in typical NY fashion waiting and waiting and waiting on the platform until finally paying attention to the announcements. ugh). Since I rarely begin the day in Manhattan, I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and stroll through central park.
It was wonderful to walk around without an agenda. I don’t get to spend much time in Central Park, so it was a real treat. I meant to head South, but meandered down a few paths and I found myself on the East side of the park. I kicked myself because it’s so much harder to get home from the East side, but then I had the bright idea of saying hello to Frank. I hadn’t been there since January, so was due for a visit.
I feel bad for the people working the ticket counter for the next few weeks. They have to explain to disappointed tourists time and again that the rotunda is closed prepping for the James Turrell exhibit opening June 21. It always stinks when you’re visiting a city to find a prized attraction under construction or between exhibits, but you don’t have to be rude about it!
There is, however, an excellent show on view featuring works from the permanent collection titled New Harmony: Abstraction between the Wars, 1919–1939. I enjoy glimpses into the permanent collection of museums because you can see the mission of the museum in the works they own. The original name of the Guggenheim Museum was the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which pretty much gives away the type of art they were/are into. Solomon worked with Hilla Rebay, an abstract painter, collecting modern art which formed the base of the museum’s collection.
Taken from the website:
“The exhibition—titled for a 1936 Paul Klee painting of utopian geometry that reflects the artist’s interest in color theory and musical composition—features 40 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by some 20 artists, including Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, and Joaquín Torres-García.”
There seems to be a resurgence of interest in abstract art these days. Inventing Abstractions just recently ended at MoMA, Hyperallergic noted the over abundance of abstract painting at the Bushwick Open Studios (BOS), and Xstraction at The Hole explores how contemporary artists are re-defining abstract painting. For myself, I find the modernist approach to abstract art to be fascinating as it marks a time when the entire world was teetering on the end of everything. They were searching for their utopias only to be hurdled into the post-war, post-historical, post-modernist, post-feminist, post-post-everything era we live in, leaving us artists to flounder and grasp for some way to define and understand our surroundings (no wonder pop culture is obsessed with post-apocalyptical zombie and vampire shows). Seeing the clean lines of the early modernist painters is sort of a relief. Perhaps we’re finally getting the critical distance necessary to really appreciate the work, or maybe it’s just refreshing to see a thin wash of red seated peacefully near some white separated by a black line.
My favorite painting in the show came from De Stijl, whose most famous member was Mondrian. It was a Dutch group founded in 1917 that wished for a utopia guided by logic and an universal aesthetic. In Mondrian’s essay ‘Neo-Plasticism in Pictorial Art’ he states “… this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary, it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour.”
I have to admit I did not know prior to this visit that there were others following these guidelines other than Mondrian. Below is a painting by Georges Vantongerloo. The vertical line was just slightly running on a diagonal creating a dynamic tension between the shapes of color. The composition was derived from a math equation, which the nerd in me loves.My second favorite painting from the show was from another artist I was unaware of until today: Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, born 1899 in Osnabrück, Germany. The texture in this painting is amazing. That yellow bit at the top jumps off the canvas and is extremely tactile.
To round out and create a “top five” of the show here are three more that I wanted to live in front of for a while.
I also went down and did a quick spin through the Thannhauser collection (ongoing) just to hang out with my longtime favorite, Toulouse-Lautrec.
(Also, it’s pretty awesome that the Guggenheim has their collection online. There is never a time when the reproduction of a work can do any sort of real justice to seeing the piece in person, BUT it’s really nice to be able to look at them regardless. A big shout out to Guggenheim photographer, Kris Graves, for being the man behind the lens shooting these great paintings.)