Blackpaint 60

Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde

Got to this this afternoon at the Tate Modern.  It’s massive; 11 rooms, some subdivided into three sections – took about an hour to go round.  some highlights to look out for as follows: in room 2, little pictures by Marthe Donas, particularly “Child with Boat”. 

In room 3, what I call the “blip” paintings by Bart van der Leck – look like genetic coding to me – and VD’s cow; I thought it was a house at first.  Also Georges Vantongerloo, great squares, great name. 

Room 6 is the Dada/ Bonset room – definition on wall by VD: “Outlook on life opposed to anything we imagine to be of vital importance”.   A few beautiful, Picabia -like fantasy machines in singing blue and rhubarb colours by Jean Crotti; also in this room, some tiny, lovely collages in yellow and red by Thijs Rinsema.

In room 7a, the perfect  model “Kiosk” by the Hungarian artist  Lajos Kassak.  In 8, two lovely red based squares by Peter Keler called De Stijl Flat Compositions, I think, and a sharply defined yellow diamond shape by Karl Peter Rohl.

Then there’s room 9, architecture, with Rietveld’s great Schroder House – love to live in that – and the Sophie Tauber-Arp squares.  The last couple of rooms have several of VD’s diagonals as well as Mondrian’s squares – as if glaring at each other, shouting “Square!” “No, diagonal!” like Big Enders and Little Enders in Gulliver.

I got an idea that only VD did a squares painting with no white, looking at Counter Composition X (grey, red, dim glowing yellow), so went back through – there were actually only about four “squares” paintings with no white.  then of course, I discovered that one of Mondrian’s most famous paintings has no white, so another theory blown.

All in all, a brilliant exhibition; just, after an hour – too many squares and triangles!  wanted a nice, big, splatty, drippy CoBrA or Joan Mitchell or de Kooning to mess it up a little.

Listening to Dallas, by Johnny Winter –

“You know that I ain’t evil,

I’m  just having fun,

So much shit in Texas, Lord, bound to step in some –

Goin’ back to Dallas, take my razor and my gun;

Anybody lookin’ for trouble, oo-hoo,

Sure gonna give ’em some”.

I think he would be a diagonals man.



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5 Responses to “Blackpaint 60”

  1. rickkurshen Says:

    I like your comparison with the Big Ender – Little Ender schism in Gulliver’s Travels. But I do think that the diagonal v. vertical&horizontal dichotomy does represent something less absurd than a differences over where to open a boiled egg. When the composition becomes orientated diagonally, Van Doesburg brings time and movement into his work, leaving Mondrian standing.

    • blackpaint Says:

      Thanks. I agree with you; movement is good, stasis is good – so why limit yourself? VD doesn’t, he does both, leaving M (as you say) standing. But I also find something attractive about self – limiting fanaticism; it reminds me of Beckett and Flann O’Brien, esp. de Selby in 3rd Policeman.
      The Gulliver analogy doesn’t really work, does it? VD would be opening his boiled egg at both ends.

  2. rickkurshen Says:

    Not myself a fan of Flann but wonder if it’s a mistake to conflate passion with fanaticism. Fanaticism suggests a fixation on an ideal, a monopoly on truth which is completely rejected or subverted by Dadaist (il)logic. (“It is like your idols: nothing…Like your paradise: nothing…Like your artists: nothing…Like your religions: nothing”).


    P.S. Weirdly, my original comment on your post keeps vanishing (maybe because it’s awaiting moderation — further proof, if proof were needed that it sometimes pays to be moderate).

    • blackpaint Says:

      Hi Rick
      Yes, I’m not a fanatic, but I find some fanaticisms both infuriating and endearing (as long as they don’t involve violence). Dada, in your quotation – wasn’t that a quote from the wall in the Tate? – sounds like a sort of fanaticism, don’t you think? A non-fanatic might have said “A little bit (but not much) like your artists, a little bit (but not much) like your paradise…etc. Sounds crap, though – the extreme sounds much better! Please keep reading.

      • rickkurshen Says:

        Yes, it was on the wall in the corner room — Van Doesburg apparently quoting Picabia. Keep writing!


        P.S. None of my business but the original comment of mine is still ‘awaiting moderation’ or seems to be.

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