Kandinsky Circles (At the Guggenheim)


These things have names. They were among the first paintings in the Kandinsky blast that open the new show at the Guggenheim, introducing the public to the founding vision of what was once called the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. Kandinsky’s vision of the spiritual in art commits itself, first to a furious multiverse of color-forms, and then to more analytical perspectives in the later work. Perhaps out of laziness, I’m reading the paintings in relation to the titles, which focus your eye on a starting point inside the painting, usually with THE circle. What remains ambiguous in the big black Several Circles is whether you read the big circle and the little circles in isolation and in what kind  of relation if you care to see it that way. Are the little circles caught in a state of being thrown out from the big circles to make their way out into the world? Or are they on their way back home, back into the embracing confine of the mother ship?  Then consider the chaos on view in the earlier works from the 1910s, like the furious activity of the blue St. George with white lance contained in the roiling white band along the edges of Painting with White Border, or the circular forms given to view in the more detached and intersellar viewing position.Form, composition, abstraction, pathos, time and space –these were the kinds of things that guided my thinking in Shape of Revelation, a study of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig in which I attempted to bring a pictorial dimension drawn from German modernism into modern Jewish philosophy and the philosophy of religion.

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. http://religion.syr.edu
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