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Mondrian and the Issue of Relationships

WITH THE COMMITMENT OF A MONK or a saint, Mondrian devoted his life to an art in which particular forms were gradually abolished in order to reveal pure relationships. Equivalent but unequal oppositions of vertical and horizontal lines, primary colors, black, white, and neutrals, he believed, could manifest the dynamic equilibrium of opposites that lay behind the particular forms of nature, and a universal reality above time, space, and the oppressions of ordinary life. This symbolistic geometry, when projected by the art and activities of Mondrian and the de Stijl painters, sculptors, architects, and designers into the social sphere, postulated a technological utopia and resulted in a dominant international esthetic that combined mysticism with utilitarianism.

We revere Mondrian as the greatest geometric abstract painter, but attempts to maintain the viability of his formal and metaphysical

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