“What is the first piece that comes to mind when you think about the words ‘modern or contemporary art’? ”
This was the question that I put out to my friends and surrounding Los Angelinos this past month in my attempt to create a 10 piece collection for the “Modern/Contemporary Art” section for the 10x10x10 project.
More than anything, people said:
1. Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn”
2. Picassso’s “Still Life with Guitar”
3. Mondrian’s “Composition Series.
This to me, makes perfect sense. Even saying the word “MONDRIAN”, your mind suddenly flashes into a geometric ballet of lines that criss cross against your pupils.
Personally, when I close my eyes, I too, see Mondrian in my mind, swimming in a sea of straight lines through hot and cool cubes into mind flattening white sectioned off emptiness. It is a mathematical precision that speaks of logic and harmony, and at times, to myself,.. of isolation. The point to this piece, and all pieces of this chapter is to not only recreate in homage of these artists, but ultimately understand the direction of its creation, and in turn tell a little history about the piece and why it happened.
Piet Mondrian was a contributor to the “De Stijl” (Translation “The Style”) art movement, which was founded by Theo Van Doesburg in 1917. De Stijl was a movement that held a utopian idealogy of ORDER and harmony. The geometry of the straight line, the reduction of form and color into primary basics and pathways of only vertical and horizontal directions communicated a sense of direction and harmony. This movement deemed to be a response to the chaos and bloodshed of World War One. The movement operated in effect to the social response of the war, and emulated a ‘spring bloom/new beginnings approach’ by focusing on order, simplicity, and quiet control. While some of these artists were influenced by Cubism and even Italian Futurism, which were far more emotionally charged with movement, anger, volatility, and passion, they felt drawn control their chaos, shed their tired skin from the war, and focus on a linear future.
Piet furthered this movement by creating his own sub-movement “Neoplasticism”, which sought to dismiss the appearance of natural forms and hues, and focused on the abstraction of them… this essentially being of primary colors and straight horizontal and vertical lines. EVERYTHING that Mondrian did was on the principle of straight lines, and primary colors. Even in his lozenge pieces, he did not paint diagonally, but instead turned the pieces 45 degrees when displayed to give off the effect.
Diagonals however were a major issue for Mondrian, to the point of him splitting from Theo Van Doesburg in 1924 in an argument over it. This further led to Doesburg creating the movement “Elementarism” which was defined by its diagonal nature, and was purely created as a rival to Mondrian’s Neoplasticism. Doesburg’s work “Counter Composition” (hilarious in title as Mondrian’s works were titled “composition I, composition II, etc”) looks nearly identical to Mondrian’s creation, except for its diagonal nature, and its use of more than primary red, blue, and yellow… Mondrian’s signature colors.
While many believe that the The Stijl movement was doomed to collapse upon itself due to the unrealistic concept of a utopian ideology, especially in the growing times of dissent and war (still), the real nature of its end was Doesburg’s death.. many who considered to be the glue to its existence to begin with.
Mondrian, while vastly popular in his day, post-mortem he flourished most significantly in autumn of 1965 when Algerian born designer Yves Saint Laurent produced a wool jersey with the replica of Mondrian’s Composition Series. From this collection produced the trend of color blocking, which spread the Mondrian style through fashion, television, housewares, and beyond.
Mondrian Mickey is a homage to the composition series, Neo-Plasticism, and the De Stijl movement. It speaks of the movement’s utopian concept, harmony of design, and the complexity of the simplistic aesthetic.