The Guggenheim museum is presenting the first major solo US exhibition of the groundbreaking work of Hilma af Klint, titled “Paintings of the Future”. Although created in the early part of 20th century, this work remained virtually unrecognized until 1986. These paintings made between 1906 and 1915 are now considered paradigm changing so the first non representational totally abstract work of the Western world. The artist felt her art was too radical for her contemporaries so she did to want them shown until twenty years after her death.
Although her art was based and generated by af Klint’s spiritual practice, the paintings depict geometric phenomenon.
This large painting is “No.17 Group IX/SUW, The Swan ” from 1915. It shows a circle bifurcated through the vertical center line. The left hand side consists of two layers an outer white layer and an inner black core. The right hand side in contrast has three concentric layers of bright colors.
This concentric theme has been examined many artists years later.
“No 22 Group IX /SUW, The Swan” also from 1915, examines the concept of a cube projected on the 2-D plane. Dividing the square canvas with guide lines one through the center vertically, and two horizontal lines. These horizontal lines are located a distance away from the top and bottom of the canvas of 1/4 of the length of each side. This configuration creates two squares in the center of the work to build the isosceles triangles and rhombi to create the illusion of the cube and it’s interior space.
This exhibition is really a major development in the art world. The well deserved recognition of Hilda af Klint is finally receiving, requires art history to make adjustments to both it’s time line and credit for the development of abstract painting. As someone interested in abstract geometric paintings for a long time, as I walked up the spirals of the Guggenheim Museum I kept thinking about these painting that I was seeing for the first time, “where have you been all of my life?”
I am always looking for exhibitions that reference the sociological implications of Mathematics in art. As I walked into this exhibition at the Guggenheim and read the introductory wall text I was immediately intrigued. Here is a portion of that text written by Sara Raza, (UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa):
But a Storm is blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, which is presented on Tower Levels 4 and 5, focuses on geometry as a tool for the illumination of creative historical and philosophical inquiry. While rooted in the mathematical “thinking sciences” geometry is used here as a conduit for theories around logic and the origin of meaning.
The artists in this exhibition have referenced social issues through a geometric perspective.
This 2011 stainless steel and rubber installation by Nadia Kaabi-Linke titled “Flying Carpets” is based on the rectangular dimensions of carpets used by illegal street vendors to display and quickly carry away the wares they are selling to tourists in Venice Italy. Many of the vendors came from Africa and the Middle East and have traveled to Europe for a better, safer life. The title alludes to this exotic notion of travel on a Flying Carpet. Although the visual aesthetic is a complex geometric abstraction, it is merely the vehicle to express the plight of refugees.