Monday, April 23, 2018

HILMA KLINT: Mother of Abstraction Review By Polly Guerin


 Hilma af Klint's "Paintings for the Future" 
La Mere de L'Abstraction, Hilma af Klint, (1862-1944), whose work originated on the threshold of modernism, gets her overdue recognition with the first major solo exhibition in the United States of the Swedish artist's oeuvre. Dubbed, The Mother of Abstraction, she was an iconoclast, creating a genre never seen before.
      So why in the annals of the art world has she been so obscure? For one thing, she never exhibited her remarkably forward-looking paintings, and, convinced that the world was not ready for them, stipulated that they not be shown for twenty years following her death. 
    When af Klint began creating radically abstract paintings in 1906, they were like little that had been seem before; bold, colorful, and untethered from recognizable references to the physical world. 
      It is interesting to note that her oeuvre emerged several years before Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, and other artists who would take similar strides to free their artwork of representational content. While others took the spotlight, her work was not exhibited until 1986, and it is only over the past three decades that her paintings and works on paper have received serious attention.    
       
Hilma af Klint, La Mere de l'Abstraction
Who was this innovative artist who shunned publicity?  Hilma af Klint was born in Stockholm 
in 1862 and went on to study painting at the city's Royal Academy of Fine Arts, graduating with honors in 1887.  She soon established herself as a respected painter in Stockholm, exhibiting deftly rendered figurative paintings and serving briefly as secretary of the Society for Swedish Women Artists.  During these years, she also became deeply engaged with with spiritualism, Rosicrucianism and Theosophy. These forms of spirituality, also of keen interest to other artists, including Kandinsky, Frantisek, Kupka, Malevich and Mondrian, were widely popular across Europe and the United States.
     Af Klint developed her new approach to art making together with her spiritual practice, outside of Stockholm's male-dominated art world. She had begun to regularly hold seances with four other women by 1896. During a meeting in 1906, one of the spirits that the group had channeled asked 
af Klint to create a cycle of paintings. Af Klint immediately accepted. She worked on the project between 1906 and 1915, completing 193 paintings and works on paper collectively called, The Paintings for the Temple. 
     
Hilma af Klint, The Ten Largest, No.7
These works, which included her first forays into nonobjectivity, were a radical break from the more staid paintings she produced as part of her public practice. Stylistically there were strikingly diverse, utilizing biomorphic and geometric forms, expansive and intimate scales and innovative approaches to composition and color. She imagined installing the in a spiral temple, but the building never came to fruition.  After she completed The Paintings for the Temple, af Klint continued to test the limits of her new abstract vocabulary.  In these years, she experimented with form, theme, and seriality creating some of her most remarkable works.

     The solo exhibition, HILMA af KLINT: PAINTINGS FOR THE FUTURE will offer an opportunity to experience af Klint's artistic achievements in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum's rotunda more than a century after she began her daring work. Organized with the cooperation of the Hilma Klint Foundation, Stockholm, the exhibition will feature more than 160 of af Klint's artworks and focus on the artist's breakthrough years, 1906-20. It is during this period that she began to produce nonobjective and stunningly imaginative paintings, creating a singular body of work that invites a re-evaluation of modernism and its development. Image: Hilma af Klint, The Ten Largest, No 7 Group IV, 1907. Tempura on paper mounted on canvas. The Hilma Klint Foundation. Photo: Albin Dahlstrom, Moderna Museet.
      The exhibition, from October 12, 2018, to January 27, 2019, is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring eight scholarly essays and a roundtable discussion. Contributions by leading art historians and contemporary artists delve in such topics as af Klint's relationship
to modernism, her engagement with new understandings of science and spirituality.
     Alas, Hilma af Klint also gets her due recognition with a series of educational programs. Information and schedules are available at guggenheim.org/calendar.
      Music for the Temple: A Tribute to Hilma af Klint by composer, John Zorn, presents new music composed in response to the work of Hilma af Klint.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!  This is an early announcement so please mark your calendar to meet a remarkable woman who defied all the odds in a male-dominated Stockholm. Love to hear from
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