Two of the UK’s most prestigious and popular art galleries, Tate Liverpool and Turner Contemporary, will present major exhibitions exploring the work of the acclaimed Dutch artist, Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). Timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of his death, both exhibitions will collectively tell the story of one of the most iconic artists of the 20th century and focus the UK’s attention on the pioneer of abstraction.
During his career Mondrian’s artistic style changed significantly with a shift from figurative landscapes to the abstract grid work he is most famous for. Turner Contemporary’s Mondrian and Colour begins the narrative by exploring the early period of the artist’s career from c1885 to c1933, tracing the painter’s use of colour from figuration to early abstraction. Tate Liverpool’s Mondrian and his Studios: Abstraction into the World continues this exploration with a particular focus on the significance of Mondrian’s studios. The exhibition also explores the connection between painting and architecture after his move to Paris in 1911 and on to his time spent in New York via London before his death at the age of 71.
The work of Mondrian has had a significant impact on the development of abstract art with an influence so far reaching it is difficult to quantify. His distinct visual style can be linked to the work of artists including Sol LeWitt, Bridget Riley and Liam Gillick as well as Bauhaus and the development of the Minimalists of the late 1960s.
However Mondrian’s legacy goes far beyond the art world and has permeated into fashion, design and music. From Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer 2014 collection and Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Mondrian’ day-dress, to the use of Mondrian’s Neo-Plasticist style by The White Stripes for the cover of their album De Stijl in 2000, Mondrian has made a significant impact on today’s visual landscape.
Victoria Pomery, Director, Turner Contemporary said: “Mondrian is one of the most significant artists of all time. His late abstract works are widely known and his particular style has influenced many other art forms. Given Mondrian’s broad appeal, it is fitting that Turner Contemporary and Tate Liverpool are presenting these two exhibitions to coincide with the 70th anniversary of his death.”
Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool said: “Individually these exhibitions are exceptional and explore elements of Mondrian’s work that have never been discussed before. Together they will tell the complete story of the artist, his influences and his legacy. Whether you live in the north or the south of the UK the British public will have access to work that will take them on a journey of his artistic career and allow them to get beneath the grid and understand more.”
Turner Contemporary offers an exclusive UK viewing of the first major exhibition to consider the significance of colour during Piet Mondrian’s early career. Mondrian and Colour explores Mondrian’s (1872-1944) practice, tracing the painter’s use of colour from figuration to early abstraction. Bringing together around 50 paintings by the artist from the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and other collections in Europe and the USA, the exhibition will demonstrate that Mondrian’s abstract works were not simply mathematical exercises in form but also expressed his search for a new universal harmony.
This first exhibition on the significance of colour in the paintings of Mondrian will investigate his artistic career beginning with the earthy paintings of his early work, his paintings in red and blue which arose from his interest in theosophy and the colour fields he painted in the period following 1921. In the landscapes he created shortly after 1900, Mondrian painted the rays of the sun and the glow of the moon in order to make a new statement about colour. He was no longer interested in capturing a fleeting external reality in the Impressionist sense; instead, his goal was to express spirituality in painting and return it to its essential nature. In 1921, Mondrian decided to paint only in primary colours which led to his abstract works. Celebrating the pioneer of abstract art, Turner Contemporary offers a unique UK opportunity to view a large body of Mondrian’s early career in a new context.
Alongside this exhibition, Turner Contemporary will also show a group of works by contemporary artist Spencer Finch (born 1962, New Haven, CT) whose poetic installations make visible the fleeting, temporal nature of the observed world. Interested in the specificities of light and colour, his works are often made in response to an artistically or historically charged time and place, from the light in Emily Dickinson’s yard in Massachusetts (Sunlight in an Empty Room 2004) to the wind blowing across Walden Pond over a period of two hours, two minutes and two seconds in 2007.
Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) was one of the most important contributors to the development of abstract art at the beginning of the 20th century. Mondrian and his Studios, which commemorates the 70th anniversary of the artist’s death, will provide new insights into the artist’s practice, his relationship with architecture and urbanism, and his contribution to the development of modern thought. The exhibition will present a diverse group of key abstract paintings, alongside the life size reconstruction of Mondrian’s Paris studio which will allow visitors to physically inhabit a replica of the unique environment that the artist created.
Mondrian and his Studios considers not only his importance in the field of abstraction, but also the complex relationship between his artworks and the space around them. The exhibition will focus on this connection between painting and architecture after Mondrian’s move to Paris in 1911, with a reconstruction of his studio at 26 Rue du Départ, Paris being a major highlight of the display. Mondrian’s studios in Amsterdam, Paris and New York all represented an ideal viewing space, described by the art historian Yves-Alain Bois as “an experimental expansion of the work and the condition for its accomplishment”. Each studio reflected different stages of the painter’s way of thinking and of his intentions: the studios themselves form a distinct strand of his work, alongside his painting and writing.
The exhibition will also investigate Mondrian’s broader relationship with architecture and urbanism, particularly through a comparison of his earlier Parisian works and those made in the frenetic modern cityscape of New York. Many of Mondrian’s best-known Neo-Plastic works will be exhibited: his own abstract painting style comprising straight lines and clearly defined primary colours, embraced by the Dutch avant-garde movement De Stjil of which Mondrian was a founder. This includes the painting
As well as coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Mondrian’s death the exhibition is also timed alongside the launch of Liverpool’s International Festival for Business 2014. Mondrian and his Studios will fit into the cultural strand of the festival programme that has been specifically created to attract a wider and more diverse audience.
Mondrian and his Studios is curated by Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool with Dr Michael White, Reader in History of Art at the University of York, and Eleanor Clayton, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool.
Tate Liverpool 6 June – 5 October 2014 Mondrian and Colour Turner Contemporary: 24 May – 21 September 2014