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Kandinsky at Guggenheim

I had the pleasure of attending a preview for the new Kandinsky retrospective at the Guggenheim museum yesterday and all I can say is run don't walk to this wonderful show! It opens today and runs through January 13, 2010 so you do have some time to see it. As an art history major, I studied the works of Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944) but my knowledge is limited to his well known abstract paintings so I enjoyed seeing the progression of his career and learning more about this fascinating Russian born artist. This exhibit comprises over 100 paintings from 1902 to 1942, two years before his death, as well as more than 60 works on paper and also deals with the challenges he faced during the two World Wars.

The exhibit begins with his earlier works that "borrowed expressive qualities of Parisian Post-Impressionism and the luminous colors of the Fauvres." There are also a few examples of his attempt at pointillism. Symbolism also played a role in his earlier works with the horse and rider who symbolized the crusade against conventional aesthetic values. It is clear from this exhibit that Kandinsky was as much as a philosopher as artist. He was also one of the founders of the Der Blaue Reiter group that was fundamental to the expressionist movement in Germany.

"Every work comes into being in the same way as the cosmos - by the means of catastrophes...the creation of the work of art is the creation of the world." Vasily Kandinsky, 1913

Kandinsky also thought that "painting should aspire to be as abstract as music." His paintings began to be designated by their correlation to music in the form of impressions, improvisations and compositions and named accordingly such as Improvisation 28 above.

His work had already shifted from naturalist scenes to visionary narratives and from 1911-13 had moved to complete abstraction. In 1914, Kandinsky was forced to return to Moscow at the outbreak of World War I but returned to Germany in 1921 where he went on to become a teacher at Bauhaus from 1922-1933. When the Nazis closed Bauhaus in 1933, Kandinsky and his wife moved to a suburb of Paris where he would spend the rest of his life.

While he was with Bauhaus his art came based on geometry and was made up of grids, circles and squares. After he moved to France, his palette became comprised more of pastels and biomorphic forms that were influenced by surrealism and his contact with artists Joan Miro and Jean Arp. Since canvas was in short supply during World War II, Kandinsky created small paintings and works on paper from 1942 until his death in 1944.

The Kandinsky retrospective has to be one of the most interesting shows I've attended in a long time. Clearly there is more to the story than my post can cover so I highly recommend a trip to the Guggenheim to learn more for yourself! Bon Weekend!


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