New York

Wassily Kandinsky

MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

In the recent show of Wassily Kandinsky’s most “symphonic works”—ten compositions and related sketches and drawings—the group of officially spontaneous works (Nos. I–VI) seemed, somewhat surprisingly, all too constructed and full of faux esprit, while his supposedly most constructed works (Nos. VII–X) read as remarkably spontaneous and spiritual. The former were made when both Kandinsky’s artistic career and the century were still young. After much ambiguous effort, Kandinsky established his identity as the “first abstractionist,”—indeed, abstract expressionist (the term was first applied to his work)—and began to construct an ideology around his gesturalist position. Nos. I–VI and On the Spiritual in Art reflect his anxious desire to claim a niche for himself. In effect they lend his pseudolyrical spontaneity—his idealization and construction of it as “spiritual”an epic grandeur. Without

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