(Impossible) Geometrical Gnosis (Paul Klee)


From 1932, Paul Klee’s Two Ways (Zwei Gänge) was bought by the museum and is now on view at Visionaries: Making a Modern Guggenheim. Klee is most famous for his quirky figurative paintings, less so for more abstract works such as this. What they share is an interest in the spiritual effect, the combination of space and time, the form creation of line and movement. On one hand, there’s nothing tricky here. What makes Klee’s painting relatively easy to read is its emphasis on line. The graphic form of the two arrows on either side of the picture point you towards the center. You eye can follow along the line. The arrows plot two possible ways across two horizontal lines from outside in the modulated dark in the direction of the bright center. Only around that bright center, the ways of the lines trace and circumvent but never enter directly the white figure there. On the other hand, here’s the trick. There are “two ways.” One after the other, you can follow one line of thought and then the other. But the logic of painting, some might say, is a logic of simultaneity. From what perspective would it be possible to follow both ways at the one and very same time? Unmöglich!


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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