GENEVA — While teaching at the newly-established Bauhaus academy in Weimar, the painter Georg Muche frequently heard assault sounds advancing from the flat abutting to his own. Aback he asked his neighbor, Paul Klee, about the noise, Klee confessed. “So, you heard it?” Klee asked. ”I’m awfully sorry. I was painting away, and it was activity actual well, aback I couldn’t advice dancing.”
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Despite the abounding depredations that Klee would face in afterwards activity — in a amount of years, he would be labelled a “degenerate” artisan by the Nazi government, be expelled from Germany, and arrangement scleroderma, the ache that would annihilate him — it is this faculty of irrepressible abandon that makes Klee’s assignment so atypical in the history of avant-garde art, and which infuses two accepted exhibitions in Switzerland: Paul Klee: The Abstruse Dimension at the Fondation Beyeler and 10 Americans. Afterwards Paul Klee at the Zentrum Paul Klee.
Born in 1879 in Bern, into a ancestors of musicians, Klee was a accustomed and able violinist and draughtsman. His ancient influences were the bright illustrations of Franz Stuck and the agreeable attitude of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn. He was not, by his own accounts, a accustomed painter. It was not until a cruise to Tunisia, in 1914, that Klee could accomplish his acclaimed declaration, “Color and I are one. I am a painter,” and aftermath his aboriginal abstruse works.
Given Klee’s backbreaking aisle against non-figurative painting, absorption may assume like a counterintuitive affair for a attendant of his work. Klee has been beneath acclaimed as a painter of “pure,” absolved color, than as a antic miniaturist, decumbent to irony, humor, and caricature.
The Fondation Beyeler’s exhibition bound dispels this misconception. Bringing calm over 100 paintings, the exhibition establishes Klee as one of the capital abstruse painters of his generation. Absent from the appearance are Klee’s added apparent figures: his fish, angels, and biomorphic, cartoonlike portraits. In their abode is the advanced ambit of Klee’s all-embracing abstruse imagination, from his “chessboard” pieces and gestural curve to his abounding works aggressive by agreeable composition.
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Beginning with Klee’s assignment afterwards his acknowledgment from Tunisia, the exhibition is organized about chronologically, according to the capital sources of Klee’s abstruse techniques: his years as allotment of the Blue Rider accumulation and as a abecedary at the Bauhaus, his absorption in signs and calligraphy, and his agreeable background.
Klee’s above advance in absorption came aback he apparent that he could “compose” a painting abundant like a allotment of music. By allotment affecting amount to abandoned colors and alignment them into fields of rectangles, Klee would aftermath a alternation of what he generally termed “harmonies.” The actual consequence aback examination these color-rectangle compositions is not a faculty of geometric rigidity, as in the works of Piet Mondrian and the De Stijl movement, but of an alive and claimed eyes of abstraction. Klee’s clashing curve accommodate airiness and action to the compositions, arresting in a painting like “Flowering” (1934), with its palette of ablaze color.
The best arresting works in the exhibition are Klee’s polyphonic creations, abounding from the Beyeler’s abiding collection. Generally misleadingly termed “pointillist,” these afterwards works were modelled on the agreeable address of contrapuntal inversion: the accord of absolute capacity generally begin in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. For Klee, accord had a cosmic, mystical quality. By overlapping cellophane blush fields, Klee produced works with several absolutely absolute themes. In “Rising Star” (1931), for example, a awning of dots rests on top of a color-rectangle composition, their centralized argumentation accumulation to aftermath an overarching faculty of accumulation and harmony.
At the time Klee died in 1940, his acceptability had already been able-bodied established. In 1930, he became the aboriginal active artisan to be accustomed a attendant at the Museum of Avant-garde Art, which would go on to host two added retrospectives of Klee anon afterwards his death. Collectors like Emmy Galka Schleyer and German dealers beat the Nazis brought abounding added of Klee’s works to the United States. By 1941, Clement Greenberg could address that “Almost everybody, whether acquainted of it or not, was acquirements from Klee.”
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Klee’s access on American absorption has been abundantly understudied, however, authoritative 10 Americans a acceptable action and an ideal accompaniment to the exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler. Partnering with the Phillips Accumulating in Washington, DC, area the exhibition will biking next, the Zentrum Paul Klee brings works from its abiding accumulating into chat with adumbrative samples from abstruse expressionists like Robert Motherwell, Adolph Gottlieb, and Jackson Pollock, to untangle the arresting web of stylistic relationships that makes Klee such an astronomic influence.
Highlighting four capacity in Klee’s painting — nature, signs and symbols, artful writing, and accord — the exhibition connects abandoned Abstruse Expressionists with altered facets of Klee’s work. Mark Tobey, who aggregate Klee’s absorption in calligraphy, is a bright almsman to Klee’s pictography; admitting Motherwell’s doodling descends anon from Klee’s own artless technique. Some artists’ works abrasion their access added acutely than others: Adolph Gottlieb’s “The Seer” (1950), admitting of a beyond scale, employs hieroglyphs that would be at home in one of Klee’s cabinet-sized works. In fact, this ascertainment applies to abounding of the abstruse expressionists: as Gene Davis said in 1983, “My aftermost appearance of attribute paintings are aloof Klee absolute up large.”
Klee’s contested bequest as a Surrealist, Expressionist, Cubist, and Dadaist makes his assignment an abnormally abounding acreage for affliction out the tensions amid individuals of the aforementioned movement. The arduous array of Klee’s achievement agency that abstruse expressionists with alike acutely little in common, such as Norman Lewis and William Baziotes, can trace their influences aback to altered tributaries of the aforementioned source.
No agnosticism Klee’s abounding years as a abecedary had a ample allotment in authoritative his theories and aesthetics so acceptant to afterwards artists. Klee authored some of the best affecting pedagogical and artful treatises of modernism, and at atomic one of his colleagues at the Bauhaus, Josef Albers, would go on to advise in the United States. Another primary arch amid Klee and the abstruse expressionists is their aggregate adjacency to music — from the classical composers Klee admired to the improvisatory applesauce of postwar New York City.
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“The act of giving anatomy determines anatomy itself,” Klee wrote in his notebooks, “and the action is added important than the form.” It is this accent on action as a artistic product, in and of itself, that makes Klee so assured for a bearing of painters anytime in chase of the best expressive, gestural means of creating a painting, alike aback the artists themselves may affirmation indifference.
Pollock, whose “Composition No. 16” (1948) is on affectation here, reportedly disparaged Klee for his miniaturism. Yet aback one sees the acclaimed footage of Pollock in the act of authoritative his dribble paintings — rhythmic, performative, about adroit — it’s adamantine not to anticipate already afresh of Klee, abandoned in his room, borer out the tune of his painting.
Paul Klee: The Abstruse Dimension continues at the Fondation Beyeler (Baselstrasse 101, Riehen/Basel Switzerland) through January 21; and 10 Americans. Afterwards Paul Klee continues at the Zentrum Paul Klee (Monument im Fruchtland 3, Bern, Switzerland) through July 1.
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