PRINT October 1995

Ascetic Esthetic

LOOKING AT PRE–NEW YORK Piet Mondrian, I could only think about the reductive zeal and restraint that must have been required to focus on the spatiality of the white voids, which seem at once to seek out and reject color. For Mondrian, the diamond-shaped canvases of the ’20s and the asymmetrical spaces of plastic structures compose an ascetic music. Veiling and distorting the codes that signal a direct correspondence between what is represented on the picture plane and an external object, Mondrian attempted to achieve a visual approximation of the dialectic between the spiritual and the natural.

The paradigm of placing Mondrian’s work on a purely spiritual plane needs to be (re)viewed: his work does not construct a space of pure opticality but rather one of filmic projection. In the works of the ’20s, the grid assumes the role of the signifier; it is the foundation of his plastic discourse,

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