abstract art, a systems view

Post Mondrianism

with 3 comments

This link shows the Mondrian painting I saw recently at The Hepworth,Wakefield: Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue  1935, Oil on canvas,560 x 552 mm. I have started to make some studies of it.

I was chatting with someone about abstract painting and contemporary art and, intending to say “post-modernism” it came out as “post-Mondrianism”

The first time I ever heard the word ‘post-modernism’ was in a lecture in 1979. I have no idea who was lecturing but the case they were making for post-modernism was a lot to do with Kandinsky’s notion of the spiritual and both his and Mondrian’s links to Theosophy, but I remember struggling to understand how that was post anything.

There’s a show at The V&A just now called Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 on the blurb they say “many modernists considered style to be a mere sideshow to their utopian visions; but for the postmodernists, style was everything”.  I guess what they say here about “many modernists” would be true for Mondrian, who was highly utopian. So perhaps ‘post-Mondrianism’ says ‘post-modernism’ after all.

Ross Wolfe’s blog charts the importance of Utopianism for modern art and architecture, it’s subsequent demise leading to late and post modernism.

3 Responses

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  1. That would make sense that you would have first heard the term “post-modernism” in 1979. I think that Lyotard’s book The Postmodern Condition first came out in 1978; to my knowledge, he coined the term and pioneered the concept.

    Thanks for the link to my blog. I’ve always been skeptical about post-modern attempts to appropriate committed, self-identifying modernist artists like Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich. Mondrian had links to Theosophy, and so did Malevich (via Ouspenskii), but this hardly places them within the spectrum of post-modernism. Neither would Kandinsky and his writings on the spiritual.

    Malevich, Mondrian, and Kandinsky were all utopians, who believed that their compositions offered the possibility of achieving a “new vision” or even a “new life.” Lissitzky and Moholy-Nagy likewise believed in this possibility.

    Postwar abstract art has since become criticized, as you have pointed out, for having merely “decorative” value. Of course, this neglects that abstract art was steadfastly anti-decorative in its non-figurative, non-representational approach. The post-modern view that abstract art is just window dressing on existing reality is in fact symptomatic of the fact that avant-garde abstract art failed to achieve its creation of a new life in the early decades of the last century.

    Ross Wolfe

    October 3, 2011 at 12:59 pm

  2. Andy–you have so many great articles/blog posts here, plus wonderful artwork images. There is so much for me to read! I am am behind. But I want to mention one aspect of this discussion that I don’t think has been mentioned here yet.

    Recently, while reading a newly published book for a review article I was writing (this newly published book is available in ebook & pbook formats), I noted something stated that is quite true. I will paraphrase since I do not have the exact quote. Basically the book stated * The art world has agreed to use the term contemporary rather than post-modern*

    Yes, the term post-modern has seemed to have disappeared from all art discussions and articles, when in years past the term was used frequently. Your articles are the first I have noticed *post-modern / post-modernism* resurface in usage.

    I am wondering what you think of this?

    My article first published as Making It In the Art World on Technorati news.


    January 7, 2012 at 4:23 pm

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