KANDINSKY's “Painting with White Border”

SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM
OCTOBER 21, 2011 – JANUARY 15, 2012

Vasily Kandinsky, Watercolor after Painting with White Border (Aquarell nach Bild mit weibem Rand), 1915. Watercolor, India ink, and pencil on paper, 12.9 × 33.7 cm. The Hilla von Rebay Foundation, on extended loan to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1970.37. © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

I initially went to the Guggenheim Museum to see Cattelan’s spectacle All, however, I was drawn to the rooms off the main spiral, which focused on Kandinsky’s “Painting with White Border” (1913). Inspired by a trip to Moscow in 1912, he sought to record his powerful impressions of Russia. After 16 studies, Kandinsky finally arrived at the pictorial solution to the painting: the white border. In On the Spiritual in Art, Kandinsky wrote that the white expresses a “harmony of silence … pregnant with possibilities” and “black a dead silence.” Instead of the process-oriented and improvisatory methods that the painting appears to embody, this show maps Kandinsky’s careful and analytical drawings with arrows and lines and shapes that moved from dissolved forms and colors spread over a horizontal field. His essay “Reminiscences” explains how he created this composition with its zigzags and clouds and its unusual scumbled technique. Kandinsky gradually translated his ideas into the language of abstraction: “I made slow progress with the white edge … I felt unprepared­—I was looking when I noticed what was missing—the white edge.” The white border became the unifying factor that pulled the complex and colorful composition together. It remains a powerful framing device, an edge that still resounds, nearly 100 years later. 

Contributor

Susan Bee

Susan Bee is a painter, editor, and book artist. Bee is represented by A.I.R. Gallery and Accola Griefen Gallery in NYC. She won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014. Bee teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, Pratt Institute, and the School of Visual Arts. http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/bee

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