Kandinsky 007


That is the question.

The work of Vasily Kandinsky, the Russian born pioneer of abstract painting, is overwhelming in and of itself. Put together 150+ pieces in one show and you have a dizzying uphill swirl that is the Guggenheim. There comes a point where you just need to sit and find your bearings…and wish it would end.

The dizzying and electrifying journey is somehow easier on the way down, maybe because breathing has finally kicked in.

Still, Kandinsky should be seen. His oeuvre clearly examines the capacity of color to communicate, and his experimentation with form and line ventures into a distinct realm of abstract expressionism.

The exhibit brings together the three largest holdings of the artist’s work, from the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachaus in Munich, as well as private collections, and traces the artist’s life over three distinct periods:

Munich and Murnau 1908-1914

A highly creative, discovery period that is my personal favorite. The use of soft lines and a beautiful blend of color can be referred to as a controlled chaos. There is a sense of abstract with meaning and one feels that a story is being told. Two pieces “Black Lines” and “Light Picture,” both from 1913 and part of the Guggenheim collection, are fabulous. (Please note: the pieces below are works from 1914, not the works I just mentioned above. I was shortly banned from picture-taking after snapping these shots.)Kandinsky2 002

Kandinsky2 003

Bauhaus 1922-1933

The work from this period is exciting, yet rigid, utilizing bright primary colors and elementary forms with sharp lines. The triangle embodies active, aggressive sentiments the square evokes calm and peace, while the circle conveys the spiritual, cosmic realm.

Paris 1933-1944

During this time of political turmoil and later war Kandinsky experimented with material and a softer, subtler palette, often depicting biomorphism (free form or design suggestive in shape of a living organism) as well as scientific imagery.

In the last panel at the very top of the museum is a piece from 1942, a copy of which is in my parent’s kitchen.

All being said, do not skip the watercolor pieces, housed in a separate side room. These works on paper are as important as his canvases, demonstrating his experimentation with the transparency and opacity of watercolor paint. They chart the evolution of his oeuvre – from the landscapes and seascapes of the early years, to the geometric patterns of the 20s and 30s, through to his final biomorphic works in the 40s.

To view the ArtistsinAuction website click here.