Dissolving Objects

Wassily Kandinsky, "Painting with White Border (Moscow)," 1913, 55 1/4 x 78 7/8 in. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift 37.245. © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Because Kandinsky’s Painting with White Border deserves more than one visit to appreciate it, this past week I returned not once, but twice to hear Spotlight Tours on the painting by Brooke Rosenblatt and Karen Schneider. While both talks were captivating in themselves, what interested me most were the reactions from museum visitors, which I feel embodied Kandinsky’s intention perfectly.

As I listened to the responses of the groups, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu as the separate tours reacted almost identically. While some of the reactions were to be expected, such as immediately being drawn to the colors that are so important to Kandinsky’s work, they also both compared passages of the painting to music and recognized a surprising number of Kandinsky’s abstracted forms for the landscape, dragon, spear, banner, and troika that they represented.

Although he received critiques of his abstractions that declared, “It may be anything under heaven or earth that you wish to imagine it,” I feel the concordance between the two tour groups as they explored the painting vindicates this statement by the artist:

 I did not want to banish objects completely . . . objects, in themselves, have a particular spiritual sound . . . Thus, I dissolved objects to a greater or lesser extent within the same picture, so that they might not all be recognized at once and so that these emotional overtones might thus be experienced gradually by the spectator.

—Wassily Kandinsky, 1914

-Sean Ware, Communications and Marketing Intern

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