DE STIJL

Utopian social ideals informed another movement as well. At the other end of Europe, in Holland, a group of artists banded together around 1917 to found a magazine and a group called de Stijl (The Style), whose aims were to provide a comprehensive visual system for all aspects of society, thus blurring boundaries and uniting the ostensibly disparate elements of life. Formally, de Stijl artists rejected all but the most basic colors--yellow, red, blue, white, black--and reduced their art to its most basic, predominantly vertical and horizontal, forms.

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) is the best known member of de Stijl. He had embraced Cubism, then pushed to a non-objective art that was all his own; like Malevich's, his art is one of balance through opposition, and once he found his signature style, he explored this theme over and over again during the course of his life. Composition in Blue, Yellow, and White, painted in 1936, is representative. In Mondrian's vision of the world, there is an equilibrium, a pose, that underlies all natural and human expression. Every painting is an object, and Mondrian's aim in each painting was to find its particular balance of elements. This was a process that was both contemplative and painstaking, sometimes involving colored squares that the artist could move around, and often requiring painting over the grid, until he achieved the "correct" final result. Here, a grid of widely spaced black lines on a white ground is set off by sections of yellow and a section of blue at either end of the lower part. Not all the black lines reach the edges of the canvas, and the white background flows seamlessly around them, so that we are left to imagine the black lines continuing invisibly to infinity. The two rectangles of color create a tonal uiver that both balances and animates the picture, an equilibrium achieved through tension.

 


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