KANDINSKY, A GREAT EXHIBITION IN MILAN: 80 MASTERPIECES FROM THE CENTRE POMPIDOU COLLECTION. A JOURNEY WITH A PIONEER OF ABSTRACT ART

 

Vassily Kandisky, The Centre Pompidou Collection” show opened in Milan, at Palazzo Reale, yesterday December 17 recounting the artistic and spiritual journey of Vassily Kandinsky, one of the pioneers of abstract art (the exhibition will run until April 27, 2014).

Promoted and produced by the Milan department of culture, Palazzo Reale, the Centre Pompidou, 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE and Arthemisia Group, this major exhibition presenting over 80 key works by Kandinsky in chronological order is curated by art historian Angela Lampe  of the Centre Pompidou and, for Italy, by Ada Masoero.

Deeply impressed by Monet’s Haystacks series at the Impressionist exhibition of 1896 in Moscow, Kandinsky abandoned a university career to become a painter. In addition to undertaking the classic course of studies under the guidance of masters such as Anton Azbé and Franz von Stuck in Munich, he stayed at Sèvres near Paris from 1906 to 1907 (Park of Saint-Cloud, 1906). He thus developed and artistic vision encompassing numerous fields, from painting to music and theatre, in which he sought and defended what he defined in his well-known text as “the spiritual in art”.

The show is organized in sections corresponding to the major periods in Kandinsky’s life, from the early years in Germany to those in Russia and then France, providing an opportunity to discover a host of crucial works such as Old Town (1902), Windmill in Holland (1904), In Grey (1919), Yellow-Red-Blue (1925), Colourful Ensemble (1938) and Sky Blue (1940).

The exhibition opens with a surprise, plunging visitors into an environment endowed with “the power to transport them outside space and time”. The wall paintings of this initial room, recreated in 1977 by the painter restorer Jean Vidal, faithfully reflect the five original gouaches that Kandinsky produced for an octagonal room at the Juryfreie Kunstausstellung, the “jury-less show” held annually in Berlin from 1911 to 1930. The gouaches were among the works donated to the Centre Pompidou by the artist’s widow Nina in 1976.

The exhibition develops in chronological order in four sections over eight rooms.

Munich, 1896–1914

Kandinsky moved from Russia to Munich to study painting in 1896, when the city was abandoning Symbolism to become a European capital of the Jugendstil or Art Nouveau, a movement pursuing the path of art through decorative projects. Kandinsky began with small, late-Impressionist landscapes like Schwabing (1901) and works of glowing colour in tempera inspired by ancient Germanic legends and the life of old Russia (Old Russia, 1903–04). It was, however, as from 1908, during summer stays at Murnau, where his mistress Gabriele Münter bought a house, that he created the first works using bright colours to translate reality into flat, two-dimensional images inspired by Fauvism. Landscape thus became a pretext for exercises on form and investigations into the power of colour leading to the initial process of abstraction (Improvisation III, 1909).

Kandinsky wrote Concerning the Spiritual in Art in Munich, a lucid theoretical analysis of his pictorial experimentation, from the relationship between form and colour to that between colour and sound. He led the Blaue Reiter project with his friend Franz Marc, which was to hold two shows in the period 1911–12 and produce in May 1912 the celebrated Blaue Reiter Almanach, where music and visual arts were closely entwined and popular and where “primitive” arts were assigned a primary role in a radical renewal of painting. Kandinsky created his first works totally detached from reality during this period (Painting with Red Spot, 1914), translations of his inner world into abstract images.

Back in Russia,1914–21

When World War I broke out, Kandinsky was forced to return to Moscow and left nearly all the works produced in Munich with Gabriel Münter. He worked exclusively on paper in 1915 (Untitled, 1915) and only resumed painting in 1916. After marrying the much younger Nina Andreyevskaya and returning briefly to figuration, he was caught up in the aftermath of the October Revolution and occupied key roles in the new cultural institutions until 1920. While he painted little due to his official commitments, he now espoused abstract art definitively (as in the crucial work In Grey, 1919). Having come under attack from the younger and more radical constructivist avant-garde for his spiritual expressionism, he thus decided to return to Germany in 1921.

The Bauhaus years, 1921–33

Kandinsky, who gained recognition for his written work, was invited by Walter Gropius to teach at the prestigious school of architecture and art known as the Bauhaus. He took charge of the wall paintings course in 1922 and produced the huge decorations for the atrium of the Berlin Juryfreie Kunstausstellung with his students in the same year. 1922 also saw the Small Worlds portfolio of prints, a synthesis of his pre-war Expressionist works, the new and more geometric style of the Russian period and the new developments of the Bauhaus (Black Grid, 1922). The years at the Bauhaus saw close friendship with Paul Klee and the publication of Kandinsky’s other major theoretical work Point and Line to Plane (1926). The titles of his paintings – Orange (1923), On White II (1923), Yellow-Red-Blue (1925) – highlight the relationship between colours and geometric shapes. The first organic forms made their appearance in 1930. The closure of the Bauhaus in 1933 under pressure from the Nazi regime forced him to move again, this time to Paris.

Paris, 1933–44

Kandinsky arrived in Paris in 1933. While indisputably the capital of the art market, the city was also devoted to its own artists (Picasso and the Surrealists above all) and had little interest in the pure abstraction of a Russian artist with German citizenship. Kandinsky moved into a house at Neuilly-sur-Seine looking onto the river and the Bois-de-Boulogne. Enchanted by the limpid, crystalline light, he lightened his palette. At the same time, not least through the influence of his Surrealist friends Jean Arp and Joan Miró, his paintings and works on paper saw a proliferation of biomorphic forms, amoebae, creatures of the depths, embryos and insects (Colourful Ensemble, 1938; Sky Blue, 1940; An Intimate Celebration, 1942). Kandinsky plunged into this microcosm, also in order to escape from the anguish of war. He died on 13 December 1944 without seeing the end of the fighting.

VASSILY KANDINSKY

The Centre Pompidou collection

Palazzo Reale, Milano | 17 dicembre 2013 – 27 aprile 2014

MON 14.30 – 19.30 | TUE, WED, FRI, SUN 9.30 – 19.30 | THU, SAT 9.30 – 22.30

Info and booking: +39 02 54916

http://www.kandinskymilano.it

#kandinskymilano

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“MIRÓ! POETRY AND LIGHT”: IN GENOA (ITALY) 80 MASTERPIECES OF THE GREAT CATALAN ARTIST

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PHOTOS / COURTESY OF:

24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE Press Office

Palazzo Ducale Fondazione per la Cultura Press Office

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Palazzo Ducale in Genoa (Italy) is hosting, from 5 October 2012 to 7 April 2013, an exhaustive exhibition of the works of Joan Miró (1893–1983), the great Catalan artist who left his unmistakable mark on the European avant-garde art movements. This exhibition features over 80 works never before shown in Italy, including 50 surprisingly beautiful, large-format oil paintings, but also terracotta sculptures, bronzes and watercolours. The masterpieces that can be admired include the oil paintings Woman in the Street (1973) and Untitled (1978); bronzes such as Woman (1967); sketches including that for the mural for Harkness Commons-Harvard University, all from the Fundació Pilar y Joan Miró in Palma de Mallorca, which owns many works by the artist and has granted them on extraordinary loan for their Italian debut.

 

Sponsored by the Municipality of Genoa and the Palazzo Ducale Fondazione per la Cultura, the “Miró! Poetry and Light” exhibition has been produced and organized by the Arthemisia Group and 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE in collaboration with the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró and Ajuntamento De Palma De Mallorca. It is curated by María Luisa Lax Cacho, considered one of the worldʼs leading experts on Miró, who has wished to illustrate the last stage of the production of the artistʼs long life, when he finally made one of his great dreams come true in Majorca in 1956: a huge space of his own in which to work, protected by the peace and silence that only nature could offer him. On occasion of the exhibition Miróʼs long-desired studio will be wholly reconstructed within the gallery space.

 

 

THE ARTIST

Miró was born and grew up in Barcelona and attended La Llotja Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied under Modest Urgell and Josep Pascó. He started drawing when he was very young and his earliest oil painting to have survived is a landscape made in 1908. At 18 years old he exhibited his work at the 6th International Art Exhibition in Barcelona and the following year he started studying at the art college run by Francesc di Galí (1912–15), who taught him how to draw after having felt the model with his eyes closed.

He subsequently studied at the Círcol Artístic de Sant Lluc, where he drew nudes, circus performers and street and port scenes. The style of his early works was influenced by Impressionism, Fauvism, Futurism and Cubism. However, his first trip to Paris, in 1920, brought him closer to Dadaism and, subsequently, Surrealism.

In 1929 Miró married Pilar Juncosa in Palma de Mallorca, with whom he later had a daughter. The same period marked the start of his artistic experimentation, and he turned his hand to lithography, etching, sculpture and painting on tarpaper and glass. He increasingly sought the stimulating tranquillity of the countryside, and a place where he could freely dedicate himself to his work. Consequently, following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and a period of exile in France until 1942, he found refuge in Majorca, his motherʼs homeland.

In 1954 Miró left his home in Barcelona, moving permanently to Son Abrines in 1956, where he had arranged for the construction of his longed-for studio, which he commissioned from his close friend, the architect Josep Lluís Sert (Barcelona, 1902–83). In order to conserve this much loved property, which was a quintessential creative place for him, in 1980 Miró donated part of it to the city of Palma, and in 1981 the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró was established. In 1954 Miró also won the Grand Prize for Graphic Work at the Venice Biennale, and in 1958 the Guggenheim International Award. However, he had to wait until his old age and the fall of Francoʼs regime before he received any

acknowledgements in Spain. Consequently, in 1978 he was awarded the Medalla dʼOr de la Generalitat de Cataluna; in 1979 the University of Barcelona awarded him an honorary degree (Harvard University had already done so in 1968); in 1980 he received the Gold Medal of Fine Arts from King Juan Carlos of Spain; and in 1983 Spain paid homage to him, with an event organized jointly by the Municipality of Barcelona, the Generalitat de Cataluna, the Ministry of Culture and the Fundació Joan Miró of Barcelona. He died soon after in Majorca and was buried in Barcelona, in Montjuïc cemetery.

 

THE EXHIBITION

The exhibition is divided chronologically and thematically in the rooms of the itinerary, where visitors can admire the production of Joan Miró during the last 30 years of his life in Majorca. The story of the master is inextricably bound up with this island that, as his own words convey, represented poetry and light for him.

From the outset of his career Miró maintained that the artistʼs objective should focus on large-scale projects, such as murals and other public art works, which also offered the opportunity to work together with architects and craftsmen, relegating easel paintings to a secondary role. Miróʼs public art projects, characterized by a combination of architecture and sculpture, derived in part from his deep admiration for Antoni Gaudí, are represented in the exhibition by works such as Sketch for the Mural of the Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati (1947) and Sketch for the Harkness Commons Graduate Center, Harvard University (1949–51), and the drawings for his Mural Project for the United Nations Building in New York (1952-1953).

Miró was in Palma from 1956 onwards, marking the beginning of an intense period of work that also led him to criticize his old sketches and paint over them. Among these paintings and drawings, the exhibition features the aforementioned oil painting from 1908, the earliest one by Miró to have survived, which the artist had covered during this purging. This untitled work thus became the recto of an oil painting made in 1960.

This period is also represented by another untitled work, an oil and acrylic on canvas depicting a figure, a sort of doll, in which the disappearance of the artist’s figurative style starts to become perceptible. During the 1960s and ʼ70s the images and titles of his works continue to refer to his favourite themes, such as women, landscapes and birds. However, the iconography becomes abstract and the figures are amplified. The coexistence of different styles and techniques gave rise to static works like Mosaic (1966) and others with confused brushstrokes, such as Poem (1966). It was also the period in which Miró set aside his easel and started painting on the floor, walking on his canvases and lying on them, creating sprays and drips, as in Untitled, also made in 1966, using oil, acrylic and black charcoal with red and blue marks.

The 1970s witnessed a series of monochrome landscapes, such as Untitled, painted in 1973, and other substantially monochromatic paintings like the large-format canvases and another series of five later oil paintings, made in 1978 and displayed in a single room, which are blurred, visionary, minimalist, evanescent and animated, and illustrate Miróʼs predilection for the black of the American abstract expressionists and Oriental calligraphy.

The artistʼs last years – when he painted with his fingers, applying colour with his fists, and got to grips with matter painting, spreading the impasto onto plywood, cardboard and recycled materials – are illustrated by works such as Figure, Bird (1976), an oil on glass-paper, wood and nails. The works with ethereal, modulated blue backgrounds, of which several examples are featured in the exhibition, including the intense Untitled (1978), also date from this period of his production.

Finally, it includes several sculptures that are the result of the experiments that the artist made during his lifetime with various materials and techniques, such as collage, object paintings and other works that, as the years progressed, were inspired by what he collected and that otherwise, as he himself wrote, “would be dead things or museum pieces”. The exhibition includes bronzes such as Woman (1966) and The Tightrope Walker (1969), assemblages like Figures (after 1973), which combines painting and sculpture and is directly descended from the object paintings of the 1930s, and terracotta sculptures, like the mask (Untitled, 1981) and the ceramic head (Untitled, 1981) that belong to a series of pieces that Miró made together with Hans Spinner, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.

We have already noted the importance of the workplace for Miró which is why the Studio Sert in which he created some of his masterpieces has been reconstructed in the exhibition space. It includes all the objects, brushes and tools that Miró used, which have been preserved by the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró. “The meeting between fantasy and control, prudence and generosity, which perhaps can be considered a feature of the Catalan mentality may explain, at least in part, the fundamental basis of the art and personality of Joan Miró,” Gillo Dorfles wrote in an essay on the Catalan artist.