Sunday, January 20, 2019

Exhibitions | New York: "Hilma af Klimt: Paintings for the Future" at the Guggenheim

So much has been written and said about the thought provoking and visually stunning exhibition "Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future"—which is currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum. Yet the viewing the exhibition has effected me at such extent that I felt compelled to record my observations and share my visual memories.

The Swedish artist Hilma Af Klint (1862-1944) graduated from the Stockholm Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1887. Initially her work included figurative paintings until she became involved with spiritualism, theosophy and later anthroposophy; she met Rudolf Steiner and spent long periods at the Goetheanum. Her spiritual involvement and mystical experiences had a major influence on her artistic production, which evolved into nonobjective work. Af Klint was involved in the group of female artists "The Five" (de Fem), engaging in séances. The group developed graphical work expressing spiritual ideas as messages from higher spirits, called The High Masters ("Höga Mästare"). An outstanding example is provided by the series "Paintings for the Temple" (1906 and 1915), which were "commissioned" to af Klint by one of the High Masters ; the paintings are based on geometric forms evolving in biomorphic shapes and are envisioned to be installed these works in a spiral temple. It is quite uncanny how they are exhibited in the helicoidal ramp of the Guggenheim Museum, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as “a temple of the spirit.”

Geometric shapes—spirals, circles, helices—are the primary vocabulary of forms for af Klimt, who develops complex patterns out of such primitives.Works come in series and often studied with rigor in sketchbooks, also part of the exhibition at the Guggenheim. The artist seems to anticipate of almost a century main explorations of the contemporary design discourse, such as shape grammars and parametricism. Af Klint's use of art as science exploration or design is so ahead of her times and her artistic expression seems to be a means of exploration and demonstration of mathematical and scientific themes, in what we would define as STEAM approach to knowledge production.

Hilma af Klint died in 1944 and in her will there were specific instructions about not exhibiting her work for at least twenty years after her death.

Symmetry explorations, from geometry to the world of nature

A vocabulary of geometric forms: the circle

Painting as architectural design: "Paintings for the Temple" (1906-1915)