Piet Mondrian was born in 1872, in a Protestant environment. His earlier pieces, done up to 1908, which constitute the majority of his work, are figurative paintings, in a rather traditional vein. As the Netherlands assimilated the modernist international movements relatively late and at a fast pace, Mondrian was initially influenced by the post-impressionist painters – notably Vincent van Gogh, Jan Toorop, Georges Seurat and Paul Cézanne, as well as by Pablo Picasso’s cubism from 1908 to 1911. These influences resulted in a bolder technique, a brighter palette and an increasingly more systematized approach in his work. Between 1912 and 1914, the artist lived in Paris, where he further incorporated the cubist vocabulary that stimulated him towards complete abstraction in 1917.
From then on, he emphasized the dynamic and purely relational interaction between verticals, horizontals and colored planes. By means of such ephemeral relations, Mondrian reinterpreted spherical shapes in terms of a dynamic interplay of interior and exterior forces, discerning deeper analogies with oppositions between energy and matter, space and time. Founded in 1917 as a magazine, the De Stijl movement became an art movement and ended up as an idea that infiltrated the very fabric of modern culture. A network arose: the collaboration between artists, architects and designers would be the antidote to the reigning individualism. Radical abstraction would reveal the modern and transform life into art. It was not a rigid, hierarchical organization, and it readily reached an international dimension. The magazine was founded by writer, art critic, poet and artist Theo van Doesburg, who aimed to gather, every month, what was there of most modern in terms of art, architecture, crafts, music and literature.
The plastic arts, a fundamental concept for De Stijl, acquired an almost religious meaning with the idea of neoplasticism – a term invented by Piet Mondrian. From 1917 onward, he experimented in his paintings with vertical and horizontal linear elements and planes of primary colors, combined with white, gray and black – in search for the essence of beauty, which he called “plastic.” The typically modernist agenda considered the most recent art as the logical consequence of everything that came before it. The radical potential of art and architecture proclaimed a future society, open and sympathetic to change. Mondrian’s abstract paintings were the model of the new consciousness. Unlike the artists of the Bauhaus, a movement that radically changed German design in the 1920s and 1930s, the De Stijl artists did not seek standardization. They strove to find specific and challenging solutions for definite people, spaces or circumstances, in architecture as well as in furniture or painting. De Stijl was the Netherlands’ most important contribution to the global culture of the 20th century.
Places and Dates:
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, CCBB, São Paulo, SP – Jan. 25 through Apr. 4, 2016
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, CCBB, Brasília, DF – Apr. 21 through July 4, 2016
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, CCBB, Belo Horizonte, MG – June 20 through Sep. 26, 2016
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, CCBB, Rio de Janeiro, RJ – Oct. 11, 2016 through Jan. 2017
CCBB São Paulo: 155.000
CCBB Brasília: 266.595
CCBB Belo Horizonte: 154.771
CCBB Rio de Janeiro: 516.584