Capricious Forms

Just before it closes (Jan. 13), I finally got to see the Kandinsky show at the Guggenheim. It was so cold, and the lines so long, I debated whether I should buy the catalog or see the exhibit (cost more than the catalog, including transportation). In the end, I wanted to become more intimate with Kandinsky, so I walked from Penn Station to 89th Street to see these magnificent canvases in the spiral of the building.

Vasily Kandinsky was largely influenced by Monet’s “Haystacks” and the musical experiments of Arnold Schonberg. He identified three types of paintings designated by associations with music:

  • impressions — based on real-life subjects
  • improvisations — spontaneous and unconscious images from the artist’s inner life
  • compositions — formally developed through many studies

His involvement as a professor at the Bauhaus gave his work new emphasis on geometry and precision. Using a compass, he created geometric shapes. The triangle embodied active and aggressive feelings; the square, peace and calm; and the circle suggested the spiritual and cosmic realm. He and Paul Klee lived in cojoined housing, and there was a cross fertilization of their work.

Kandinsky invented an extraordinary lexicon of biomorphic forms, incorporating amoebas, embryos, cells, larvae and all kinds of microscopic organisms and created his own kind of Surrealist-inspired ‘automatic writing’ in which the unconscious mind is transcribed onto the blank canvas. For his lectures at the Bauhaus he collected scientific books and botanical imagery. These contained the embryology, zoology and botany that informed his work.

He held a utopian vision that art can take us to a higher place.

Top: “Sky Blue.” Left: “Arc and Point.”

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