This painting, Expansion in Four Directions (1961 – 62), shares its lozenge shape and geometric divisions of color with many paintings by Piet Mondrian, whose work Max Bill (1908 – 1994) collected and in whom he was greatly interested. Bill trained at the Bauhaus in the 1920s under Josef Albers and was an architect and graphic designer as well as an artist. In his work, he aimed to transcend personal artistic expression to achieve universal communication, and to this end he used mathematics as a neutralizing compositional device.
The subject of an exhibition at the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo in 1950 and winner of the grands prize for sculpture at the Sao Paulo Bienal in 1951, he helped to introduce a generation of Latin American artists to European geometric abstraction. Bill designed the catalogue for a 1955 Mondrian exhibition at the Zurich Kusthaus and lent to it three Mondrian paintings in his collection.
Ad Reinhardt (1913 – 1967) studied both Eastern and Western art history at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He deepened his understanding of Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies by attending the lectures of Zen teacher Daisetz Suzuki at Columbia University. Number 22 (1949) shows Reinhardt fusing Eastern and Western traditions by using calligraphic brushwork inspired by Chinese and Japanese calligraphy in a gridded composition influenced by those of de Stijl cofounder Piet Mondrian.
Number 22, Detail
In classical East Asian painting, the fragility of paper wet with ink limits the artist’s ability to rework the composition. The sturdier canvas support and slower-drying oil paints used throughout much of the history of Western painting allows artists to highlight various revision and layering techniques. Although he worked in oil on canvas, Reinhardt chose to restrain himself and not rework his painting’s surface, in keeping with Asian calligraphic traditions. The result is a far more controlled manner of gestural painting than those of the Abstract Expressionists.
Heralded for his abstract visual evocations of jazz, Stuart Davis‘s art also responded profoundly to the industrial age. Men and Machine (1934) features two men standing before a schematically rendered structure with their backs to the viewer. Likely representing a construction site with the foreman and investor looking on, the painting alludes to New York’s interwar construction boom. Highlighting the degree to which industrialism was associated with masculinity, Davis’s painting, consisting of primary colors on a white background, also testifies to the artist’s respect for Piet Mondrian.
Photographed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Influenced by Piet Mondrian’s work from the 1910s and 1920s, American artist Burgoyne Diller (1906 – 1965) devised his own abstract formats in the 1930s. Divided into groups called “First, Second, and Third Themes,” Diller’s three series explore the sense of movement generated by different arrangements of geometric forms within a square. Second Theme pictures, such as this one (1938 -40), feature a grid system with rectangular bands of differing widths extending across the canvas.
Photographed the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Over at digital arts community B3ta, a user challenged others to create images of fake video games based off of famous artworks. The results are pretty phenomenal, but one user who goes by HappyToast envisioned a version of Pong set inside a Piet Mondrian painting. After seeing the GIF, designer Kristiana Hansen instantly set out to program the real thing. So here you have it: 2 Player MondriPong 1.2.
Made at height of the heated discussions on abstraction that took place around the artists’ group Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square), which Torres–Garcia co-founded, Estructura En Color (Color Structure), 1930 is remarkable for the way it simultaneously corresponds to and since is it self from “pure” abstraction as it was conceived at the time. The structural grid of horizontal and vertical lines Torres-Garcia employs is similar to the compositional mode often practiced by Neo-Plasticists such his Piet Mondrian, but it is not nearly as “rational” as it is in contemporaneous work by Torres-Garcia’s younger peers. By multiplying the grid’s rectangles Torres-Garcia made a work that instead relates more closely to the stained-glass windows he designed early in his career while working at the Sagrada Familia church under architect Antoni Gaudi. Likewise, although blue, red, yellow, and white are signature colors of abstraction in the style of Mondrian, Torres-Garcia’s versions are voluntarily darker, earthier, and more somber. With these variations in color and form, his work boldly breaks away from the orthodoxy of modern abstraction.
Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Although he painted in both realist and abstract styles during his career, Dutch painter Piet Mondrian is best known for his grid paintings of vertical and horizontal black lines with the three primary colors. Composition in Oval With Color Planes I (1914) follows a grid pattern but is somewhat unique in that Mondrian used a pastel color palette.
According to experts, “the geometry of this composition, made two years after Mondrian moved from Holland to Paris, is directly based on sketches of partially demolished buildings, with exposed floors, chimneys and patches of wallpaper. Mondrian believed that horizontal and vertical lines, such as those he used here, expressed an underlying, universal order.”
This piece was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art for its permanent collection in 1950.