PRINT October 1995

Shape Up

I do not recall really spending time with Piet Mondrian’s work until I was hired as a guard at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, in the summer of 1962. Being a guard allowed a relaxed familiarity with the collection. The contact was a daily one, during which you could study a work or simply see it in passing. Some works and artists seemed to gather weight with this exposure; others did not, or even diminished in my eyes. Mondrian’s paintings looked better every day; I seemed to rediscover them each time I came upon them. Somehow, his paintings did not seem lodged in the past but were of the moment. This is a quality I have found in other artists of the past I am drawn to, but at the time it was a revelation.

I am interested in the role shape has played in Mondrian’s work. The edges of his paintings, from around 1912, stop being framelike and, instead, become the first element in the

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