The Spiritual in Art = The Shape of Revelation (Vasily Kandinsky: From Blaue Reiter to the Bauhaus, 1910-1925 (Neue Galerie)

marc blue-horses kand composition-v-1911 kand picture-with-a-white-border-1913 kandinsky circles

If you want to know what “the shape of revelation” or “the spiritual in art” looks like, go to New York’s Neue Galerie, Ronald Lauder’s little pocket museum devoted to German and Austrian modernism in the visual arts.  It’s a Kandinsky show with lots of input from his collaborators Franz Marc and a few beautiful little things painted by Paul Klee. The spiritual in art takes shape as unnatural color gives way to geometric intensities. The spiritual in art is constellated by Kandinsky and company as an assemblage of blue horses, circles within a circle, a yellow house, world cow, black form, prayer, a small black door.   In reproductions of Composition V, you won’t get the glow of the picture, the matted softness of the color fields, the slight muddiness of the browns, and the bright little pastels that provide texture to the abstracting out of the resurrection scene of trumpets, angels, and that nasty black whiplash that moves from the upper right corner of the picture into the center. I think the same of the texture given by the palettessd?? to the blue fury of the central figure of St. George, represented by the circular figure; his white lance mirrors the loop of the border in Painting with the White Border. These are the colors and shapes that helped me frame the analysis of Buber and Rosenzweig in The Shape of Revelation –the emergence of a thing, dead things out of a swarm of color attributes, and then crowned by death in Rosenzweig’s chapter on creation, the emergence of recondite revelations without content or object out of and into the form of language, the animating, nihilating, animating heat that illuminates or colors the animal world of sensate-supersensate creaturely existence.  Most of the pictures on view at the Neue Galerie will be familiar to anyone already familiar with Bluer Rider Expressionism and with Kandinsky at the Bauhaus. While there’s nothing much new to “say” about them, they remain great to “look at.” I feel pretty much the same about Buber and Rosenzweig.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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