Monday, May 15, 2017

BestSeatIBW2016- Piet Mondrian*

*This post was originally written as a Facebook post for Babywearing International of Cleveland for International Babywearing Week 2016. Some edits have been made for clarity. 

This ring sling (on its way to becoming an onbuhimo by now!) was cut from a longer wrap (I split it with another art historian and educator!). The wrap is based on the paintings of Piet Mondrian, a Dutch-American artist working in a style called “De Stijl” (meaning “the style”) in the mid-20th century. Though he began his career painting landscapes in his native Netherlands, Mondrian came to reject the object entirely in favor of abstract compositions featuring only red, yellow, and blue with black and white. I’ve paired the wrap here with an example of this part of his body of work: Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow from 1937- 42 (Museum of Modern Art, New York City, 638.1967). In part, this turn toward abstraction was an optimistic expression of his belief in the birth of a new, machine- and technology-fueled age after WWI; the rigid, perpendicular lines and simple color schemes are meant to suggest structure and the geometric elements that create a perfect, orderly world.

More than just a suggestion of machinery, the compositions reflect Mondrian’s fascination with New York City in particular, where he fled at the outbreak of WWII. The straight vertical and horizontal lines look like scaffolding, or the steel skeletons of skyscrapers, rising on Manhattan. But if the picture plane is imagined on the floor in front of us, the black lines suggest the city's grid, the movement of traffic, and the colors become blinking electric lights.

Mondrian was also interested in American jazz music, particularly boogie-woogie; the rhythms of squares and rectangles also created a syncopated beat that visually represents jazz’s irreverent approach to melody and improvisational aesthetic. The colors appear random and spontaneous, but are still grounded by the structure provided by the white background and black bands.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has produced a quick video detailing Mondrian’s fascination with jazz and dance here.

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