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doctor grid

December 20, 2010

[FT] One of the photos of Piet Mondrian in this life-changing Pompidou show is packed with emblematic cunning. Shot by André Kertész in Mondrian’s Paris studio in 1926, it shows him both the creator and the personification of his art – austere, sharply angular, pressed into the tight containment of his three-piece suit. The coal-dark eyes burn confrontationally from behind rimless spectacles. Behind him, all is uncompromisingly rectilinear. It is a study in the Deadly Earnest.

So why would anyone want to surrender a Paris afternoon to the contemplation of Mondrian’s philosophical severities, much less be locked up with the hard-edge utopianism of De Stijl, the Dutch group of artists, architects and designers devoted to fashioning a modern urban aesthetic that criminalised the curve? It might seem about as welcoming as Gerrit Rietveld’s notorious chair, bright to behold but brutal on brain and bum.

But the stereotype of Dr Grid isn’t the whole story. The exhibition throbs with vibrant colour, beyond the holy trinity of the primaries. Not even Matisse could produce so many delicately modulated greys; nor the panes of etheral, washed-out robin’s egg blues; the dusty rose pinks; the toasty burnt orange and the greens, yes greens, from sour acid lime to deeply bottled, that were the staple of his abstraction before the trinity took over. (read)

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