1 – Wassily Kandinsky – Point and line to plane
In his writings, Kandinsky analyzed the geometrical elements which make up every painting—the point and the line. He called the
physical support and the material surface on which the artist draws or paints the basic plane, or BP. He did not analyze them
objectively, but from the point of view of their inner effect on the observer.
A point is a small bit of colour put by the artist on the canvas. It is neither a geometric point nor a mathematical abstraction; it is
extension, form and colour. This form can be a square, a triangle, a circle, a star or something more complex. The point is the most
concise form but, according to its placement on the basic plane, it will take a different tonality. It can be isolated or resonate with other
points or lines.
A line is the product of a force which has been applied in a given direction: the force exerted on the pencil or paintbrush by the artist.
The produced linear forms may be of several types: a straight line, which results from a unique force applied in a single direction;
an angular line, resulting from the alternation of two forces in different directions, or a curved (or wave-like) line, produced by the
effect of two forces acting simultaneously. A plane may be obtained by condensation (from a line rotated around one of its ends).
The subjective effect produced by a line depends on its orientation: a horizontal line corresponds with the ground on which man rests
and moves; it possesses a dark and cold affective tonality similar to black or blue. A vertical line corresponds with height, and offers
no support; it possesses a luminous, warm tonality close to white and yellow. A diagonal possesses a more-or-less warm (or cold)
tonality, according to its inclination toward the horizontal or the vertical.
A force which deploys itself, without obstacle, as the one which produces a straight line corresponds with lyricism; several forces
which confront (or annoy) each other form a drama. The angle formed by the angular line also has an inner sonority which is warm
and close to yellow for an acute angle (a triangle), cold and similar to blue for an obtuse angle (a circle), and similar to red for a right
angle (a square).
The basic plane is, in general, rectangular or square. therefore, it is composed of horizontal and vertical lines which delimit it and
define it as an autonomous entity which supports the painting, communicating its affective tonality. This tonality is determined by the
relative importance of horizontal and vertical lines: the horizontals giving a calm, cold tonality to the basic plane while the verticals
impart a calm, warm tonality. The artist intuits the inner effect of the canvas format and dimensions, which he chooses according to
the tonality he wants to give to his work. Kandinsky considered the basic plane a living being, which the artist “fertilizes” and feels
Each part of the basic plane possesses an affective coloration; this influences the tonality of the pictorial elements which will be drawn
on it, and contributes to the richness of the composition resulting from their juxtaposition on the canvas. The above of the basic plane
corresponds with looseness and to lightness, while the below evokes condensation and heaviness. The painter’s job is to listen and
know these effects to produce paintings which are not just the effect of a random process, but the fruit of authentic work and the resultof an effort towards inner beauty.
2 – Piet Mondrian – The Composition Series
Mondrian’s best and most-often quoted expression of his artistic theory, comes from a letter he wrote to H.P. Bremmer in 1914:
I construct lines and color combinations on a flat surface, in order to express general beauty with the utmost awareness. Nature (or,
that which I see) inspires me, puts me, as with any painter, in an emotional state so that an urge comes about to make something,
but I want to come as close as possible to the truth and abstract everything from that, until I reach the foundation (still just an external
want to come as close as possible to the truth and abstract everything from that, until I reach the foundation (still just an external
foundation!) of things… I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with
calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by
other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true.
3 – Sol Lewitt – Wall drawings
Between 1969 and 1970 he created four “Drawings Series”, which presented different combinations of the basic element that governed
many of his early wall drawings. In each series he applied a different system of change to each of twenty-four possible combinations 3
of a square divided into four equal parts, each containing one of the four basic types of lines LeWitt used (vertical, horizontal,
diagonal left, and diagonal right). The result is four possible permutations for each of the twenty-four original units. The system used
in Drawings Series I is what LeWitt termed ‘Rotation,’ Drawings Series II uses a system termed ‘Mirror,’ Drawings Series III uses
‘Cross & Reverse Mirror,’ and Drawings Series IV uses ‘Cross Reverse’.
In Wall Drawing #122, first installed in 1972 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, the work contains “all
combinations of two lines crossing, placed at random, using arcs from corners and sides, straight, not straight and broken lines”
resulting in 150 unique pairings that unfold on the gallery walls. LeWitt further expanded on this theme, creating variations such
as Wall Drawing #260 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York), which systematically runs through all possible two-part
combinations of arcs and lines. Conceived in 1995, Wall Drawing #792: Black rectangles and squares underscores LeWitt’s early
interest in the intersections between art and architecture. Spanning the two floors of the Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Brussels, this
work consists of varying combinations of black rectangles, creating an irregular grid-like pattern.
4 – Robert Rauschenberg – The White Paintings, Black Paintings, and Red Paintings
In 1951 Rauschenberg created his “White Paintings,” in the tradition of monochromatic painting, whose purpose was to reduce
painting to its most essential nature, and to subsequently lead to the possibility of pure experience. The “White Paintings” were shown
at Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery in New York during October 1953. They appear at first to be essentially blank, white canvas.
However, one commentator said that “…rather than thinking of them as destructive reductions, it might be more productive to see
them, as John Cage did, as hypersensitive screens – what Cage suggestively described as ‘airports of the lights, shadows and particles.’
In front of them, the smallest adjustments in lighting and atmosphere might be registered on their surface. Rauschenberg himself said
that they were affected by ambient conditions, “so you could almost tell how many people are in the room”. The Black Paintings of
1951 like the White Paintings were executed on multiple panels and were single color works. Here Rauschenberg incorporated pieces
of newspaper into the painting working the paper into the paint so that sometimes newspaper could be seen and in other places could
not. By 1953-1954 Rauschenberg had moved from the monochromatic paintings of the White Painting and Black Painting series, to
the Red Painting series. These paintings were created with diverse kinds of paint applications of red paint, and with the addition of
materials such as wood, nails, newsprint and other materials to the canvas created complex painting surfaces, and were forerunners of
Rauschenberg’s well-known Combine series.
Referenced Artists for Assignment 2
Referenced Artists for Assignment #3
Kara Walker provocatively engages American slavery in nearly life-size silhouettes that hijack racial stereotypes and exaggerated physiognomies drawn from blackface entertainment. Amid nightmarish revivals of the antebellum South, hyperactive shadow forms expose and reverse a fundamental operation of minstrelsy: the projection of white audiences’ illicit desires and irrational fears onto black bodies. Pushing derogatory caricatures to absurd limits, Walker overturns the diffusion of violence through comedy. Jokes are rerouted, punch lines go astray, and heroes and villains switch places. Walker herself inhabits these scenes as the Negress. Mischievously subverting any “straight” story, these theaters of horror thrive on the proximity between attraction and revulsion, drawing together love and hate, violence and tenderness, for a more complex approach to an unsettled historical problem… click here for original text
Robert Indiana (b. Robert Clark, 1928) first emerged on the wave of Pop Art that engulfed the art world in the early 1960s. Bold and visually dazzling, his work embraced the vocabulary of highway signs and roadside entertainments that were commonplace in post war America. Presciently, he used words to explore themes of American identity, racial injustice, and the illusion and disillusion of love. The appearance in 1966 of what became his signature image, LOVE, and its subsequent proliferation on unauthorized products, eclipsed the public’s understanding of the emotional poignancy and symbolic complexity of his art. This retrospective reveals an artist whose work, far from being unabashedly optimistic and affirmative, addresses the most fundamental issues facing humanity—love, death, sin, and forgiveness—giving new meaning to our understanding of the ambiguities of the American Dream and the plight of the individual in a pluralistic society. Click here for original text..
Jenny Holzer was born in Gallipolis, Ohio, in 1950. She received a BA from Ohio University in Athens (1972); an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (1977); and honorary doctorates from the University of Ohio (1993), the Rhode Island School of Design (2003), and New School University, New York (2005). Whether questioning consumerist impulses, describing torture, or lamenting death and disease, Jenny Holzer’s use of language provokes a response in the viewer. While her subversive work often blends in among advertisements in public space, its arresting content violates expectations. Holzer’s texts—such as the aphorisms “Abuse of power comes as no surprise” and “Protect me from what I want”—have appeared on posters and condoms, and as electronic LED signs and projections of xenon light. Holzer’s recent use of text ranges from silk-screened paintings of declassified government memoranda detailing prisoner abuse to poetry and prose in a sixty-five-foot-wide wall of light in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center, New York. Click for original link on Art 21…
Alphonse Maria Mucha
Alphonse Maria Mucha was born in the town of Ivančice, Moravia (the present Czech Republic). Although his singing abilities allowed him to continue his education through high school in the Moravian capital of Brno, drawing had been his main hobby since childhood. He worked at decorative painting jobs in Moravia, mostly painting theatrical scenery. In 1879, he relocated to Vienna to work for a major Viennese theatrical design company, while informally augmenting his artistic education. When a fire destroyed his employer’s business during 1881 he returned to Moravia, to do freelance decorative and portrait painting. Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov hired Mucha to decorate Hrušovany Emmahof Castle with murals, and was impressed enough that he agreed to sponsor Mucha’s formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.
Mucha moved to Paris in 1887, and continued his studies at Académie Julian and Académie Colarossi. In addition to his studies, he worked at producing magazine and advertising illustrations. About Christmas 1894, Mucha happened to go into a print shop where there was a sudden and unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play featuring Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress in Paris, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster within two weeks, and on 1 January 1895, the advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou was posted in the city, where it attracted much attention. Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she began a six-year contract with Mucha.
Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was termed initially The Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau (French for “new art”). Mucha’s works frequently featured beautiful young women in flowing, vaguely Neoclassical-looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind their heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors.Mucha’s style was given international exposure by the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, of which Mucha said, “I think [the Exposition Universelle] made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts.” He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated with decorating the Austrian Pavilion. His Art Nouveau style was often imitated. The Art Nouveau style however, was one that Mucha attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself and Czech art. He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more; hence his frustration at the fame he gained by his commercial art, when he most wanted to concentrate on more artistic projects.