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My longlasting intimate relationship to circles is getting satisfied in part by Herbin who paints at least two or rather more circles on several canvases.
Cause (Not dated, Technique: Silk screen) happens to be made on silk instead of canvas, but I do not mind due to lovely circles framed by a variety of angular forms. A purple circle within a black square is obviously felt the main motif. It appears pushing up by an orange circle in a bright green form at bottom right and pushed down by the red circle on top left. Pushdown is felt stronger than pushup as suggested by the unbalanced additional support of the black square by the peak of dark olive-green triangle. Diagonal arrangement of the three circles needs counterbalance provided by the two larger hemicircles. The white forms direct our view from here to there capricously. Nothing suggests traces of the third dimension, the multicolored composition is quite flat.
I suspect joke that this painting was entiteled Nude (date: 1960). Pattern of geometrical elements is balanced in a sophisticated way, some of them are touching the horizontal white strip, others are left floating alone on the background. I like the narrow triangles best. Once again, no trace of the third dimension occours on this restful composition. There are only two colors (red and blue shown in different hues), and white on a black background.
Friday I. (Date: 1951).
Lovely! There are eight circles and several hemicircles without even a single concetric design. Like most of his other paintings shown in this blog, the components are cleanly defined by sharp borders. Touchings generate tension which is relaxed a bit by little distances. Tensions and rhythm in the bit crowded design make the composition fairly exciting. I feel interesting contrasts of the black background on the right with superimposed white forms, the white background with black components on the left side and the yellow background on the bottom. A single large red circle connects the black and white sides while the smaller red circle is balances on the peak of a triangle connecting the white background with the large yellow one on the bottom.
Untitled Date: 1959.
Here are the concentric circles missed above. Herbin apparently likes using the circle motifs put within squares or angular objects perhaps to accent the contrast between these two kinds of forms. He seems to prefer white and black combinations too, which makes this composition vibrating as we continue looking at. Vibration is certainly not reduced by the top part with strong contrast both among colors and geometrical forms. Excitation grows until recognized that the center points of the two red circles fit the same vertical axis. There is an exact bilateral symmetry in both the top and the bottom parts on the two sides of that axis.
Composition Date: 1940.
The next, very complex composition made using arcs, circles, segments of circles, strips, and a single triangle. Complexity comes from both the forms and their coloring. More then ten different colors can be counted. I take the concentric red in yellow circles as the central point of the composition. It is framed by further circles and circle fragments as we are getting more and more distant from the red center. Colored arcs rising from the bottom prevent the circles falling down and rolling apart. Circles and circle-fragments dominate the upper half while arcs are characteristic to the bottom and right side.
Composition Date: 1917
This watercolour painting has been picked to compare an immature (as far as I am concerned) composition to the matured ones painted much later. It always takes time to develop styles even if that development largely means reduction both in numbers and forms of components. Yes, you are right telling that there are plenty of circles including monochrom ones which could not be simplified further. There are however plenty of complicated forms which are far cry from the quiet clean geometrical forms Herbin used later. This painting reminds me of Kandinsky lyrical-geometrical works.
golyho (May 20, 2009)
Several works of Mondrian has been covered in previous blogs, but I am going to devote another blog to his very influential style. Especially because this portal contains over 80 of his paintings. As before, I ignore the more naturalistic ones and do not deal with the problem of how he has developed his unique abstract style. Careful investigation of the reproduced paintings under his name in this web site easily reveals milestones of that development.
What we see here is two larger red and a narrow blue put on a homogeneous white background divided by thick black strips (or lines if you like). The two red forms might be considered as a single one crossed by a black line. Both the lines and the colored rectangles apparently leave the plan and run into the endless, which suggests that this painting is only a small window of the world. Note the sharply rectangular direction of the lines, a very characteristic novelty introduced by Mondrian himself. We noted vertical or diagonal crosses on some works of Malevich, but I would not consider Mondrian’s black strips as representing crosses. Black lines in direct angle was a strict rule in Mondrian matured world as well as restricting himself to us one, two, or all three (red yellow and blue) primary colors.
Composition: Composition with Red, Yellow, Blue and Black (1929) is related closely with the composition 1933 covered above. It is true however, that from some distance all or most of Mondrian’s works are related to each as he followed strictly his own narrow Puritan rules. All black lines except one (the lower horizontal) as well as the three colored motifs appear to cross the edges and continue to the endless. This makes the apparently central large white square empty, accentuated and heavy, pushing the bottom edge down. Mondrian leaved open how to handle the black component of the bottom. It can either be a wider part of the black line but this would be an almost singular example of black lines getting thick in part. Alternatively one can see a relative small black rectangle melting into three black lines.
Composition with Red, Black, Blue, Yellow and Grey (1920).
Not only the two yellow but the complex design also make this composition quite different from the above ones and a bit crowded. Crowded compositions are not exceptional among Mondrian’s paintings even if I do not partucularly like them. There is once again a relatively central big white square surrounded by as many as five rectangles. Why five instead of four? Perhaps to avoid getting banal. Note please that although the composition is outlined completely by a black line, both ends of two adjacent vertical lines on the left fail to reach the black contour. This failure gives some tension to the otherwise balanced restful composition.
Vertical Composition with Blue and White Date: 1936
Two vertical and two horizontal thin black lines and a single blue spot add up to this simple composition. Within this narrow field the single colored motif gets spotted immediately. Therefore in contrast to the right side, the left hand part is very restful and almost empty. Still this composition is very far from the monochrom minimalist ones.
Diagonal Composition Date: 1921.
Not many artists made abstract diagonal paintings earlier than Mondrian. Malevich and early suprematists did so but they used monochrome canvases in contrast with Mondrian who used here black lines on white background and triangles from the three primary colors. These motifs are completed with an almost exact square also in black. This black motif is the only completed since all the three colored ones reach the border. I take the blue, yellow, and red as parts of rectangulars even if they appear triangles, because I miss the third black line expected to determine triangles. Everywhere, except the right endpoint at the longer horizontal, black lines fail to cross (touching only) the white borderline. One never knows why Mondrian put the diagonal composition on the center of a black square. Perhaps he was not yet ready mentally to go so far as to exhibit diagonals containing very few elements and a network of black lines. Alternatively, he might felt need of increase tension or balance.
Anyone who wants to make paintings like that will be count pupil of Mondrian since he worked out his clean style to the ends. He himself recognized importance of his original findings since he apparently stopped painting naturalistic pictures after about 1920.
golyho (May 20, 2009)
Doesburg was a leader of De Stijl group. His outstanding talent let him make important works at various fields, including my long favourite „classical” constructivisms.
In my blog entiteled De Stijl, I have commented this Espaciotemporal Construction II (Date: 1923) noting that it has a strong and evident link to architecture. Aside from the obvious associations, one can view this work as a strictly constructivist painting instead of a somewhat preliminary outline of a building to be designed. Doesburg shows the components from above and follows exactly the rules of linear perspective. Although the colors are bright and strong, there is not too many of them used. What surprises me is the strong orange background.
The Composition in Gray (Rag-time, date: 1919) can be evaluated as an example of far more flattened than the above one. However, some rectangles appear not flat at all, and these darker ones curve behind the plane of the lighter rectangles, therefore I take the group of almost white rectangles as coming forward from the grayer ones. Neither of the components appear more important than the others, but there is a slight suggestion of background. At least the part around the incomplete rectangles on the bottom corners can be considered so.
Contra-Composition XIII (Date: 1925-1926).
According to my best knowledge, clean triangles with cut off corners are rarely seen in the paintings of Mondrian to whom this composition reminds me. There are strong tensions of various kind. For example the sharp contact between red and black triangles is counterbalanced by white. A restful part is the small yellow triangle complete with all three corners of it, completeness making it restful. That yellow triangle supports the big black from below. The whitish triangles are felt to be needed for further support of the red and black ones. Role of the cut white triangle seems complex and ambiguous, since it supports the upper gray, pushes down the red, and runs out over the edge. I hope you agree that playing a game to find out what supports which of the components induces joy.
Composition (Date: 1919-1920) counts as a multicolor one in respect of standards of De Stijl. The colors are repeated at least once up to four times in contrast with the forms, among which you can find singles. It takes time to find and recognize similarities and the investigation needed for that is exactly the purpose of paintings like this: call for interest and intimate study of carefully composed little details. I like the retarted hue of the colors which reminds me to the primary ones, but fails to be as bright and clean as for example Mondrian’s.
The composition named Rhythm of a Russian Dance (Date: 1918) contains narrow strips put playfully on a bit blue-gray background. Careful study reveals that part of the background is almost clean and sharply delineated white which reaches the edge of the canvas less often than the gray. No strips contact any of the neighbouring ones and the minimal distances apparently have the same dimensions. Like in other paintings of Doesburg, timeconsuming analysis equals intense joy. His sensitivity to the rhythm is evident on his other compositions too, but here it is accentuated strongly by the narrow forms put often just a bit apart or jumped to more distant from each others. The four colors used for the rectangles are repeated also in a haphazard dancing way.
I leave you with an irregular composition which also irradiates tension. The Simultaneous Counter-Composition (Date: 1929-1930) was painted at a time when Mondrian now classical paintings have already been available. No one knows how the two masters have influenced each other in restriction to using bright primary colors and black on some neutral background. Tension comes from several sources. One is the fact that both the black strip and the three colored rectangles are composed a bit diagonally, a clear nonsense for Mondrian clean style restricted to verticals and horizontals. The second is that the black strip closes but fails to reach the bottom edge of the canvas. The third source of tension is the fine corner-contact of the blue and the yellow components, the fourth one is the large black with clean vertical-horizontal contours, and finally the fifth is the complicated pattern of cutting the forms at the edges of the canvas.
golyho (May 18, 2009)
Riley balances at the edge separating simple pupils of great masters like Vasarely. One might consider all op art paintings as more or less simple variants of a single idea: generating optical illusions. Others including myself consider the know how of many works important enough to grouping them into separate categories. It does not mean however, that Ms Riley should be considered as member of leading, genuine masters of op-art. Do you agree?
Blaze (Date: 1964) Some of her works like this one justify why she belongs to the op art movement. At 1964, before computers have been used widely, it should need painstaking patience to design and draw this spiral. Working on black and white resulted this time in a gray tone likely due to narrow closeness of the two opposite colors. Spiraling effect was achieved by angled running of „lines” and careful gradual adjustments. Follow the circles carefully to convince yourself, that the spiraling effect is an optical illusion, the composition has been designed from circles with little variation of their geometrical center points. She has likely draw thin contour lines for 8 circles, decided direction of angles and thickness of some lines before doing the task. Then very carefully adjusted a little both thickness and angles of lines to get illusion of spectacular outburst of light (blaze).
Hesitate Date: 1964. On what does she hesitate? It remains ambiguous but two changes are evident. One is gradual changing of colors the other is raising illusion of space by adjusting circles to ellipsoids. Both techniques have widely been used by Vasarely to achieve similar effects. It is true however that in my best knowledge he did not produced paintings exactly like that one. Variation delectat.
Fragment 4/6 (Date: 1965) is so to say a curious product. I would consider it as example of minimal art instead of op art. Few of the 56 items differ from the majority by little rotation of the vertical black ellipsoids without changing the inner white ones, otherwise the motif is repeated including its close neighborhood. In other word the distances are kept the same. Among others Vasarely used the idea of little changes of almost identical motivums like squares or circles, but he did that more effectively in respect of generating optical illusion of movements (most often rotation or vibration). Within the framework of minimal art very little or even no change of the motivums is accepted. Who knows what was the purpose of Ms Riley?
Cantus Firmus Date: 1972-1973. Do not get foolish by first impressions concerning simple repetition of vertical strips. However, be surprised how difficult to note that sequential order of the vertical strips are varied. Some are simply repeated in every second (not every single) sets others change a little in color but their width is kept strictly and regularly. It is supposed only an illusion that thickness of the darker strips apparently made irregular, as one can check using simple tools like a ruler. To my best, Vasarely did not make similar paintings but some minimal artists did.
Arrest 2 (1965) Thickness of all 29 (supposed my counting is correct) sinuous strips is varied in a strictly regular way. That makes the surface of canvas to appear undulating instead of remaining flat. That technique has also been used by others for the same purpose but I am not educated sufficiently to raise names or titles of works. Perhaps you yourself have also experienced recalling to some visual memories without data on sources. Surely, Vasarely did vary the thickness and direction of strips for making for example the widely know paintings of zebras. Anyway that kind of regular variation of thickness and undulations represent very strong way to suggest making the third dimension life.
golyho (May 17, 2009)
Some while ago I dealt with circles which remains interesting for me so I happily pick artists who prefer circles. Many like Agam flirts only with circles among other geometrical forms. Some belong to the rather well know a kind of op-art without exploring how to suggest space.
Triple sensitivity (not dated). Unfortunately I cannot enlarge this copy to decide how sharp or blurred the borderlines are. Some like the black and the smaller blue are drawn precisely within the large circle centered exactly in the canvas. There are two other circles, all put more or less off-center. They suggests sensitive handling of geometrical regularity broken only a little by shifting the elements off from the center. The second sensitivity may refer to careful distorsions, the four ovals are fairly close to the circle form. I take the colors as the third sensitivity.
Yellow Haze, (not dated). The copy of this painting is ambiguous in respect of the uncertain role of the white. It might belong to the canvas but it also can be the frame. The innermost small square is centered in the gray one while the other rectangulars are shifted a bit off. The yellow „haze” is not a regular square but close to it. The composition is balanced well by, at least for me, the almost black small rectangle near the upper left corner. The two circles are in contrast with the large oval although all the three are open. Unlike for example in transparent motifs of some Moholy-Nagy paintings, these three elements seems to be cut out of rectangles which come forward since they cover all others including the yellow. Some tension is felt because the warm and light colors like yellow is pushed behind by a dark purple and especially the two blue ones. This contradicts rules of color perspective.
Agam was also interested in generating illusion of rectangulars by strips.
In the Polymorph (undated) I percept 9 rectangulars induced by the multicolor vertical and horizontal strips. All the nine has a small square in their center offering some rest to our eyes while investigating the vibrating strips. Vibration comes from several sources including various thickness and especially colors of both the vertical and horizontal strips. There are only two continuous and completely white verticals which divides the composition into three parts of near equal size. I take the most important purpose of this composition to generate perception of vibration counterbalanced only in part by the 9 rectangulars.
Prayer (undated) also contains rectangles formed by vertical strips, but the technique is quite different. Here we see a homogenous yellow background on which regularly spaced vertical strips are painted, horizontal ones are missing or imagined only. Some of the verticals are monochrome but unequal in length, others are composed from two or perhaps three different colors while thickness of each strips remain unchanged. Abrupt change of coloring produces perception of concentric rectangles with a black square in the middle. The composition reminds me some of Vasarely’s who also used widely the same optical illusion. Our mind tend to combine simple motifs to get something complete, well known, but not delineated forms. Obviously, geometrical forms like rectangulars, triangles, or circles are easier to percept then something like a profile of a woman with a big hat and long hair.
Yucatan Holiness (Date: 1983) appears to be designed by the same technique of broken multicolored horizontal and vertical strips. Since most of the strips are equal in wideness, we percept plenty of little squares arranged with only a slight irregularity. I can attribute neither optical nor geometrical role to the triangles painted capriciously here or there. Thus the composition as a whole remains for me a vibrating multicolored image without some hidden simple or multiplied component. I take this design as going too far in possible complications, so far as to prevent holistic illusion of a few major forms. In other word I see the details but can not percept the whole composed by the fragments.
golyho (May 16, 2009)
I am happy to share with you what is written in a book entiteled: The Graphic Works of M.C.Escher Gramercy, New York. I copy the comments word-by-word below.
Convex and Concave. Three little houses stand near one another, each under a cross-vaulted roof. We have an exterior view of of the left-hand house, an interior view of the righthand one
and an either exterior or interior view of the one in the middle according to choice. There are several similar inversions illustrated in this print, let us describe one of them. Two boys are to be seen, playing recorders. The one on the left is looking down through a window on the roof of the middle house, if he was to climb out of the window he could stand on this roof. And then if he were to jump down in front of it he would land up one storey lower, on the darkcoloured floor before the house. And yet the right-hand recorder player who regards the same cross-vault as a roof curving above his head will find, if he wants to climb out of his window, that there is no floor for him to land on, only a fathomless abyss.
Ascending and descending. The endless stairs which are the main motif of this picture were taken from an article by L.S. and R.Penrose in the February, 1958 issue of the British Journal of Psychology. A rectangular inner courtyard is bounded by the building that is roofed in by an never ending stairway. The inhabitants of these living-quarters would appear to be monks, adherents of some unknown sect. Perhaps it is their ritual duty to climb those stairs for a few hours each day. It would seem that when they get tired they are allowed to turn about and go downstairs instead of up. Yet both direction, though not without meaning, are equally useless. Two recalcitrant individuals refuse, for the time being, to take any part in this exercise. They have no use for it at all, but no doubt sooner or later they will be brought to see the error of their nonconformity.
Belvedere. In the lower left foreground there lies a piece of paper on which the edges of a cube are drawn. Two small circles mark the places where edges cross each other. Which edge comes at front and which at the back? In a three dimensional world simultaneous front and back is an impossibility and so cannot be illustrated. Yet it is quite possible to draw an object which displays a different reality when looked at from above and from below. The lad sitting on the bench has got just such a cube-like absurdity in his hands. He gazes thoughtfully at his incomprehensible object and seems oblivious to the fact that the belvedere behind him has been built in the same impossible style. On the floor of the lower platform, that is to say indoors, stands a ladder which two people are busy climbing. But as soon as they arrive a floor higher they are back in the open air and have to re-enter the building. Is it any wonder that nobody in this company can be bothered about the fate of the prisoner in the dungeon who sticks his head through the bars and bemoans his fate?
Hand with Reflecting Globe. A reflecting globe rests in the artist’s hand. In this mirror he can have a much more complete view of his surroundings than by direct observation, for nearly of the whole of the area around him – four walls, the floor and ceiling of his room – are compressed, albeit distorted, within this little disc. His head, or to be more precise the point between his eyes, comes in the absolute centre. Whichever way he turns he remains at the centre. The ego is the unshakeable core of his world.
golyho (May 16, 2009)
Maurits Cornelis Escher is, no doubt, among the giants of graphical suggestion of space in two-dimensional planes such as a cartoon. At first, I supposed an easy job to put together a blog on his works. However it turned out almost as difficult as would be to copy them. The concept of the three drawings shown here are the same: use the rules of linear perspective to generate optical illusion of space coming forward from the plane of the cartoon or going behind it. Leave a few details which help to fix direction or do just the opposite, draw something to disturb the perspective, that is illusion of the third dimension. These make our space perception floating, jumping from one view to an other. Fix points induce firm perception while the floating ones allow to switch from back to front and vice versa. Technics is to play with lighting of details, let some in shadow, use clean single vertical axis but several horizontal ones. Since the horizontal axis floats surface of elements appears being seen from top or bottom which let space perception switching.
On the drawing entiteled Convex and Concave (Date: 1955) I see, among others, five males (one sits, two play trumpet and another two climb ladders) fixed in normal position (heads top). However look at the women who is percepted either in normal or alternatively in upside down position as she walks over a bridge seen from up or from down. Almost all views of the buildings keep on switching from inside or outside. Surely it takes time to explore, percept and explain these details, but the continued switching needs very complicated conditional explanations. We agree, I hope, that this drawing is extreme and contains some impossible, irrealistic visual details. Make an effort, please, to explore!
The next (Ascending and Descending , 1960) is a building seen from top and virtually correct except the part where monks walk up and down. The steps they ascend appears correctly going upward while the ones along they descend comes downward. This design is called endless stairs since both sets arrive to the same platform inside the little tower. That platform is apparently positioned either higher or lower than any steps, which is of course impossible in the real world.
The Belvedere, (Date 1958) is a fantastic mixture of an impossible building containing from correctly drawn realistic details. A major source of complication is the ladder which alone seems completely all right but related in an impossible way to the building. Both the top part of the ladder and the upper level of the building are completely realistic. In contrast, even apart from the ladder, the bottom level are made up from columns and archs drawn correctly but resulting in a virtually irreal space. In this case function and setting of the columns stir the composition up. Note please the sitting man who holds in his hands the famous, long known impossible cube! Enlarge please the pictures (double click on the reproductions under Escher’s name) to percept that small detail.
Escher was great when he has apparently drawn the real world. His Hand with Reflecting Sphere (date 1935) seems all right except one important thing. It remains to be decided if we see a glass (reflecting) globe from outside or inside. Accordingly it remains ambiguous if the globe comes forward or goes backward from the plane determined his hand. Apart from that he perfectly solves the very difficult task of depicting his hand, he himself, and the room behind him. He follows strictly and correctly all the rules of linear perspective distorted by the sphere (curved surface) reflecting the details.
golyho (May 9, 2009)
There is a style called organic art in sculpture (opposed among others by constructivisms or geometrical forms). Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth both produced plenty of non-figurative, strong organic carvings and bronzes. Organic means related to life, bodies, parts of bodies (like a torso) as well as bones, shells and so on. One of the pioneers of organic art was Brancusi who was also a giant of making simple forms stunning. The female heads and birds he made are both have since influenced many.
I really do not know how Archipenko and Brancusi was related to each other in respect of mutual influences early in the last century. The style of their works often seems obviously similar. They both appears to reduce forms to the basic instead of creating new forms which have no counterpart in the real world. Therefore similarity of works of these two giants should be no surprize since eliminating of small details always ends up forms which resembles only but fail to reproduce living forms like nudes.
Lying horizontal Date: 1957 Movement: Cubism
This bronze makes evident what I mean on resembling instead of representing or reproducing living forms. There is hardly anybody who fails to percept the form of female body here. Why female instead of male? Because the rounded smooth forms suggest that at least for me. I also like how the horizontal part balances the upright one which goes to the air without being supported.
Seated Female Nude (Black Torso)
Museum: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Location: Washington, DC, USA
Description: Material: bronze, Size: 38.0 X 13.2 X 15.1 cm,
I surely recommend to visit the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC. I have been there several times without getting saturated by the treasures of that collection. The relatively small Black torso appears easy to reproduce but I suppose it is a false assumption. Elegance of proportions, little sizes of breasts the rather big buttocks and the position of the oversimplified head makes this figure very nice. Missing elegance of proportions would reduce quality substantially and makes it similar to serially produced commercial female forms.
I have no idea why this terra cotta is entiteled that way. The womenly components of the form are obvious in spite of their strong distortion. One can associate textile draperies or veils featuring Islamic women. If so, there is a very strong contrasts among the rounded breasts and the veils supposed to hide female forms in Islam. Putting aside the „realistic” details, please enjoy the lovely curves and proportions of this beautiful figure.
Looking at this figure, one can hardly doubt that simplification promotes beauty. The lovely smoothness of polished marble makes us to want touching and gently stroking this white figure. It is one of the most highly respected treasure of the Hirshhorn collection, being monumental even if only 47 cm high. In addition, thights take most of this highness making the body unproportional but very interesting. I like the contrasts between the left and right side of the upper part, one is quite abstract as opposed by the fairly realistic lovely half-breast.
Seated Nude, ca. 1919-20 Oil on canvas Museum: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Location: Washington, DC, USA
Many assumes that people strong in carving and sculpting paints in a style different from native painters. Colors are reduced, forms are accentuated, while backgrounds are quite simple to name only the most important differences which are easy to note either on this painting or many other ones reproduced in this website. Like in his other works, the artist prefer here the rounded forms, distorted body, and irreal proportions. These details make us to note and remember.
golyho (May 1, 2009)
For this second blog on Moholy-Nagy I have selected pieces with dark gray or black background. Like in the previously covered set, he used the idea of space suggestion by overlapping, but in this series he rarely used transparency. However the main elements are floating freely on neutral dark background. There IS background – in contrast with some Reinhardt paintings, is not it?
QXX Date: 1923
Let me recall Tao’s recent comment on abstract paintings in general and of Moholy-Nagy in particular. She questiones skill of masters, doubts artistic talent and mastery knowledge of many of them – which I refuse categorically. Just try to compose or even copy his paintings! She said but failed to demonstrate that without training it would be easy to produce paintings like that. She misses verbal expression of abstract paintings, exactly what artists denies as needed to understand visual arts. One can talk about what realistic paintings depict, but verbalizing is far from the artistic expression of fine art. Depiction of nature, human face and body became obsolate after invention of photography. Why should visual arts be translated using nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs? Tools of literature differ sharply from tools of visual arts. Indeed these paintings fail to express what one may verbalize beyond listing simple geometrical forms. One can talk about emotions initiated but not enforced. Colors and geometrical forms may or may not induce emotions – but emotions born in us and are not obviously suggested by paintings. In case of QXX there are white, yellow and black strips in close, intimate relationship with a red circle. For me sizes, color balance, and placing the forms are important and sufficient to generate interests. They justify high evaluation of all the other compositions selected here to consider. I can not feel emotions. Imagine for example central placing of the red circle over the white strip and shifting the yellows to cross each other at the center of the circle. I tried and found it quite boring. Little shifts from the central positions, diagonals, as well as color hues get important when the tools are limited.
Tp 5 Date: 1930
Once again we see strips, lines and a big circle only. Compare Tp 5 with QXX above! Is not they quite different? Is not they both are interesting approaches and possible results of experimenting with balances and tones? Is not the fine lines are simple but quite important tools to make the composition interesting? Do you recognize complexity of line pattern?
To Kandinsky Date: 1926
There is an important book of Kandinsky on rules of composition. He says that even a single point put on a neutral background organizes the plane and able to generate tension. This painting honours the master who recognized and explained how very simple elements make compositions complex. Note the oblique direction of strips! Note how the black background comes forward at the place of dividing the red and yellow strips! Note how the artist combines tension and calmness in a single composition! Other emotions may born too.
Untitled Composition Date: 1922
Compared with the aboves this untiteled composition is fairly complicated. Note touching of white circle by the blue one and a white oblique line. Note careful shifting the two unequal „T-elements” and their intimate relationship with the lines running downway! Note the tension generated by the direct angles of white lines! Note how the upwardly directed twin lines interact with the circle and counter balance it!
Untitled Date: c. 1921
The artist used here some transparency again. That makes the background and space complex and ambiguous. The black cross is obviously the closest to us, but what about the red rectangle? Does it covers or is it covered by other elements? Is not this relationship catch our attention? Is not this very simple trick generates interest?
Two Nudes Date: 1925k
I like nudes. This photo uses similar rules of composition than the paintings of the artist. The directions are oblique, limbs are cut, faces can not be recognized and shadows have important roles for example in understanding the exact position of limbs and breasts. Note the soft contours, missing of sharp lines. Obviously the two bodies are not to be compared to Moholy paintings but we also see, that photos are superior in depicting making therefore simple depiction obsolate.
golyho (Apr 23, 2009)
László Moholy-Nagy form Hungary was among the best teachers of Bauhaus in Dessau and able to organize a similar group in Chicago (USA) after that movement was destroyed in Germany. I do not cover his later works (photos) although he was strong and influential in that respect too.
His paintings are considered by many as being the best examples of classical constructivisms related closely with architecture. Construction should be important in figural paintings as well, but a certain style of good nonfigurative works accentuates it more and makes it the main point of the composition. A few geometrical elements floated on neutral background easily suggest space, especially if lines or strips run diagonally. This effect comes form our perception trained by rules of linear perspective. Vertical-horizontal monochrome lines fails suggesting space but even simple warm-colored squares appears a bit closer while the cold ones goes distant. Overlapping forms are quite strong in respect of space suggestion.
A 17 Date: 1923
Moholy-Nagy made two almost identical paintings (A 17 and 19) with the same structure but different coloring. One important element is the semi-transparent and color filtering circle which comes forward and arranges the space. Color filtering semi-transparency makes tones of the covered motives different especially when Moholy-Nagy varies rules for color modulation. In these paintings we percept at least 3 overlapping and also transparent layers behind each other. To achieve that effect the artist selected lighter and darker tones.
A 19 Date: 1927 Movement: Bauhaus
A 20 Date: 1923-28
In A 20 the circle is black and behind the strips. It seems to me, that there are at least 4 layers depending on perception of the two strips which overlap the circle only. Note the well balanced setting of sligtly diagonal strips and shifting the black circle to the right form the center, and leaving the top left corner empty. These settings generate forces and tensions.
A XXV Date: 1926
The next composition (A XXV) is fairly complex but its concept remain similar. There is a single circle in the top layer. This circle is shifted slightly up from the center of the canvas. It remains ambiguous whether or not the black components signal the bottom (bacground) layer. The light green covers a part of the red strip. Here in this relatively calm composition I feel a bit less tension then the above ones, but of course that feeling is highly subjective.
Composition (Date: 1921) has a few simple elements. A single black strip fails to reach the top and bottom edges of the canvas and there are five slices cut from circles. Sizes of that five (3 horizontal, 2 vertical) are different and overlappings are evident. The two rotated but similar pairs induce restlessness, my eyes jump from one to the other. Careful examination reveales how sophisticated the balance: direction of the horizontal borderline of the red slice appears to just meet the bottom corner point of the vertical pair. A similarly apparent vertical axis defined by the vertical black slice meets a corner point of the horizontal black. Imagined lines help to keep our glance moving from here to there within the composition.
Composition A II (Date: 1924) has been my favorite non-figurative painting for a long time. I like the idea of near complete but smaller repetition of the large complicated form. Repetition organizes sets of simple geometrical elements to complex forms. Forms are repeated but coloring is fairly different. To percept this, please note the blacks. The top layer contains a red circle while the bottom background is painted by a neutral yellowish stain on which the forms float. The second from top layer is defined by a large white rectangle overlapping a yellow diagonal strip, the large black and a major part of the smaller form. Determination of the further layers get more and more difficult and in case of the smaller form near impossible. In spite of the very complicated structure the composition as a whole is carefully balanced and elegant. For me, only a few other geometrical masterpieces approach the level defined by that composition.