Liverpool – Piet Mondrian: “Mondrian and His Studios” at the Tate Liverpool Through October 5th, 2014

September 9th, 2014

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red (1937-42) © 2014 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/p HCR International

Running in tandem with the Turner Contemporary in Margate’s expansive Piet Mondrian retrospective, the Tate Liverpool is currently exhibiting an immersive exhibition focusing on the Dutch artist’s creative process and physical locales.
Reconstruction of 26 rue du Depart, Paris based on 1926 Photo by Paul Delbo Photograph © 2014 STAM, Research and Production Frans Postma Delft-NL. Photo Fas Keuzenkamp © 2014 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International

Mondrian and His Studios takes a more abstract approach the artist’s creative output, exploring the shifting nature of his own work, moving from figurative portraiture to experiments in color and form,  but also the spaces and locales that greatly influenced his approach and style.  Viewers are able to explore a meticulous recreation of 26 rue du Depart, Mondrian’s home and studio while living in Paris, dotted with colorful squares and and modernist furniture that underlines the artist’s exchange with the landscape of modernity, and its impending results on his own work.

Piet Mondrian, No. VI/Composition No. II (1920) © 2014 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International USA

Much akin to its sister exhibition to the south, the Liverpool show includes a number of Mondrian’s important early works, including The Tree A, one of the pivotal works in Mondrian’s career, in which he began incorporating tenants of abstract figuration, particularly cubism, into his own style.

Piet Mondrian, The Tree A (c.1913) © Tate Photography, 2014 © 2014 Mondrian:Holtzman Trust c:o HCR International USA

But where the Turner Margate exhibition places Mondrian’s arrival at the abstract blocks of color and sharp, crisscrossing structure of his most recognizable works, Mondrian and His Studios moves beyond this initial innovation, exploring how the artist’s formal signature was in turn influenced by the cities he called home after departing his Dutch homeland.  Influences from London and New York City, chiefly among them the jagged, syncopated rhythms of jazz and boogie-woogie that dominated the nightclubs of Manhattan in the years following World War II, and of which Mondrian found ample inspiration.  His signature forms take on a vastly more complex, and far more nuanced place as he moves later into his career, turning simple color blocks into patterns and sequences.

Piet Mondrian, Compositie in Kleur B (Composition in Colour B) (1917), Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands © 2014 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International USA

The compositional parallel to jazz is a fascinating trope in early twentieth century abstraction.  Wassily Kandinsky also found ample inspiration in the American music form, using the music as an inspiration in his flowing, abstract works.  But where Kandinsky saw the music as a freely evocative form, Mondrian’s late compositions take the backbone of the jazz measure as his prime focus.  His works are closer to a musical score than the product, showing the change in intensities and melody as bound by time.  For Mondrian, structure and output are inextricable, and his works remain rooted in a disciplined, technical structure.

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue (1927) Photo Museum Folkwang, Essen, © 2014 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International USA

What rises from the dual exhibitions in Liverpool and Margate is a fascinating look at Mondrian’s practice, particularly in his willingness to incorporate diverse threads of thought and practice into his own work.  Rather than ascribe to a singular school of thought, Mondrian’s work is exceptional for its daring to incorporate, to shift and manipulate inputs into something between his own voice and that of his surroundings.

Piet Mondrian, Arum Lily (1909-10), Photograph: Gemeentemuseum den Haag © 2014 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International

— D. Creahan

Read more:
Piet Mondrian review – studio soirees and all that jazz [The Guardian]
Mondrian and his Studios, Tate Liverpool – review [Financial Times]