It couldn’t come more full cirlce: Kandinsky created his only stage production based on Mussorgsky’s piano cycle, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” inspired by a photo exhibition. Kandinsky’s stage designs are now on exhibit.
“Pictures at an Exhibition” were originally a cycle of works for piano written by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. For artist Wassily Kandinsky, the cycle served as a basis for his first and only theater project, which was premiered in the German city of Dessau in 1928.
The stage designs for the production are now being exhibited, in honor of the painter’s 150th birthday, in Kandinsky’s former residence in Dessau.
Wassily Kandinsky was out to create a synthetic “Gesamtkunstwerk.” For him, that meant that sounds took on hues that listeners could see before their eyes as they listened to the music. It was intended to be a Gesamtkustwerk of sound, color and motion.
“Worldwide, only two series remain from the stage designs – one in Centre Pompidou in Paris and the other in a theater studies collection at the University of Cologne,” said Harald Wetzel, organizer of the exhibition at the Dessau Masters’ Houses. Included in the exhibition are images from the Cologne collection.
The home of a Bauhaus artist
Wassily Kandinsky lived and worked in Dessau from 1925 to 1932 as a master with the Bauhaus school of art and design. Those were his most productive years. Over 500 painters and watercolors were created in his studio in the masters’ settlement.
The so-called masters’ houses were designed for the Bauhaus teachers – by none other than architect and Bauhaus director Walter Gropius himself. In 1926, the artistic movement relocated from Weimar to Dessau and spent just a year and a half erecting a college building and the masters’ houses.
A foundation for the Dessau Masters’ Houses takes care of preserving the four houses, a unique architectural ensemble of great historical value. They have since been restored to their original design and color.
The rooms in Kandinsky’s former home usually stand empty – except for the color accents. The artist preferred color on the ceilings, doors and walls, including light green, white, crimson, black and ocher. They are the same colors that Kandinsky integrated into his stage designs, which – along with the geometrical forms – are typical for Bauhaus.
Musical geometry on stage
In the spring of 1874, composer Modest Mussorgsky saw a retrospective of befriended painter and architect Viktor Hartmann. Included were pictures that Hartmann had taken on a journey to Europe, such as the Great Gate of Kyiv, an Italian palace, and the catacombs of Paris.
Mussorgsky composed “Pictures at an Exhibition” in memory of Hartmann, who had died the previous year. It’s not entirely clear which of Hartmann’s pictures had inspired Mussorgsky the most.
Wassily Kandinsky, however, was fascinated by the music and began to express his impressions in his artwork. “Kandinsky’s task was to turn the music into paintings,” said Harald Wetzel.
For the stage production of “Pictures at an Exhibition,” various geometrical elements were supposed to be pushed onto the stage or pulled off of it. “The exhibited pictures give just a limited impression of the stage production,” explained Wetzel. “The individual elements were constantly in motion.”
While the orchestra played, images came into being on stage – in sync with the music.
Dessau remained the only cite where Kandinsky’s work was performed, although a performance in the US had originally been planned. It wasn’t until the a 1983 festival in Berlin that the work was reconstructed by students from the Berlin University of the Arts, based on a script and the stage designs from the collection at the University of Cologne.
Since then, many versions of Kandinsky’s production have been staged, including multimedia variations with video, which are presented now and then in concert halls and museums from New York to Hong Kong.
Kandinsky’s original stage designs are on display in Dessau through May 22, 2016.
The new exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, from 19th March
Starting in March and running until July 2016, the new exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, From Kandinsky to Pollock. The Art of the Guggenheim Collections, brings over 100 masterpieces of European and American art from the 1920s and the 1960s to Florence in a narrative that reconstructs the relationship and ties between the two sides of the Atlantic through the lives of two leading American collectors, Peggy and Solomon Guggenheim.
Curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, the exhibition – the result of a cooperative venture involving the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York – will offer a unique opportunity to compare and contrast the crucial works of European masters of modern art such asMarcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Man Ray and European masters of so-called Art Informel, or “Unformed Art”, such as Alberto Burri, Emilio Vedova, Jean Dubuffet and Lucio Fontana, with large paintings and sculptures by some of the most influential personalities on the American art scene in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Jackson Pollock, Marc Rothko, Wilhelm de Kooning, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein and Cy Twombly.
This exceptional exhibition also celebrates the Guggenheims’ very special tie with the city, because it was precisely in Palazzo Strozzi’s Strozzina undercroft that Peggy Guggenheim, who had only recently arrived in Europe, decided in February 1949 to show the collection that was later to find a permanent home in Venice.
The large paintings, sculptures, engravings and photographs on display at Palazzo Strozzi on loan from the Guggenheim collections in New York and Venice and from other leading international museums, paint a vast fresco of the extraordinarily heady season of 20th century art in which Peggy and Solomon Guggenheim played such a key role. They also tell the fast-paced story of the birth of the Neo-Avant-Garde movements after World War II in a tight and uninterrupted interplay between European and American artists.
Source: Firenze Made In Tuscany
Kandinsky’s choice of bright colours, hues and shapes gave identity to the abstract art movement.
Have you ever looked at a painting and not been sure of what it looked like? Chances are you are looking at a piece of abstract art. In this form of art, artists pay attention to colours, shapes and lines. They use these elements to express their feelings instead of painting objects, people or places that look real.
The abstract art movement began around 1910. Wassily Kandinsky is considered a founding father of this style of painting. He was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1886 and grew up in the Russian town of Odessa. When he was young, he studied drawing and music. He learned to play the piano and the cello. These early experiences with music played a big part in his paintings, in his later years.
At first, Wassily studied law and became a teacher at the Moscow University. When he was 30 years old, he decided he wanted to be an artist and moved to Munich, Germany. He went to art school and started by painting landscapes. He was influenced by the artwork of impressionist painters like Claude Monet and also by many music composers.
In Germany, Kandinsky and an artist friend, Franz Marc, founded a group called The Blue Rider ( Blaue Reiter in German). The group believed that art should explore spiritual ideas and published a magazine that explained their ideas. Kandinsky wrote a book about spirituality and art. One of his famous paintings is also called ‘The Blue Rider’.
Kandinsky’s paintings became gradually more and more abstract. He was interested in painting the feelings created by colours and shapes instead of how objects really looked. Colour was important to him and he felt that colours expressed emotions just like music did. He arranged certain colours next to each other on his paintings, much like a composer arranges notes to produce beautiful music. Many of his paintings were named like pieces of music. He called them Compositions and Improvisations. Some of his paintings were created after he listened to a piece of music. He called them Impressions.
Kandinsky began to teach art in Germany at a well-known school called the Bauhaus (pronounced Bow-House). Here, he sometimes conducted free painting classes where he and his friends taught and also created their own paintings. He lived in Germany until the rise of the Nazi movement. The Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, was a failed artist and hated many forms of art, especially abstract art. The Nazis closed down the Bauhaus. They seized 57 of Kandinsky’s paintings, in 1937. The paintings were displayed in an exhibition with other paintings that Hitler disliked and called “degenerate art”. They were later destroyed.
Kandinsky left Germany and moved to France, at this time. He lived in France until the end of his life in 1944. During his life as an artist, Kandinsky wrote three books explaining his ideas about art. These ideas have influenced many artists and are as important as his paintings.
You can see Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings up close on Olga’s Kandinsky Gallery:
The Kandinsky Effect are a modern jazz trio where two members are credited with “effects” in addition to their own instruments. Drummer Caleb Dolister has his hands full, keeping a steady tempo for an open-ended band that teeters between jazz and electronic post-rock. So it’s up to saxophonist Warren Walker and bassist Gaël Petrina to give the Kandinsky Effect the extra textures of echo, loops, and general sonic butchery that keeps them ahead of their jazz-rock competitors.
Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky was a man whose abstract art made history in the 20th century and whose name continues to stump English speakers long after his death. The beloved painter and printmaker — celebrated with a Google Doodle today — would be blowing the candles out on his 148th year were he still alive today.
In honor of Vah-SEEL-ee Kahn-DIN-skee’s big day, we’re collecting together some of the more interesting facts from his storied life and career. From his birth in Moscow, back when the Russian Empire was still in existence, to his death in France at the age of 77, here are the 9 things you might not have know about dear Vasya.
1. Kandinsky began seriously pursuing art when he was 30 years old. Which makes him somewhat of a late bloomer. In fact, he had previously been studying law and economics, but he opted to abandon the fields (and a professorship in jurisprudence at the University of Dorpat) in favor of studying painting in Germany.
2. He was an “average” student. Though his appearance, marked by pince-nez glasses and sharp suits, gave the impression of a formidable teacher, he was mostly an average art student. He studied for two years under Anton Ažbe, then for one year alone, before finally being accepted into the Munich Academy, showing a proclivity toward color theory. He received his diploma in his mid-thirties and enjoyed a few years of mid-level success as a professional artist thereafter.
3. He believed art and music went hand in hand. This famous quote sums up his penchant to equate painting with composing music: “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
4. He gushed over Monet’s “Haystacks” just like the rest of us. Monet’s lily pads and haystacks have converted more than a few admirers into artists. For Kandinsky, the sight of the Impressionist’s harvest landscape was simply revelatory:
“That it was a haystack the catalogue informed me. I could not recognize it. This non-recognition was painful to me. I considered that the painter had no right to paint indistinctly. I dully felt that the object of the painting was missing. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendour.”
5. He is credited with being the first artist to create a purely abstract work. It was an untitled watercolor, now in the Centre Pompidou in Paris. According to most historians, by the time he painted Composition VIII in 1923, all representational elements had been removed from his work. Francis Picabia and Piet Mondrian were exploring similar patterns in “pure abstraction” during this period as well.
6. Kandinsky allegedly had synesthesia. Synesthesia is defined as “the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.” In essence, he would see colors when listening to music, which makes sense — given he also credits Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin” as a reason for leaving law behind and chasing art.
7. He didn’t just love painting, he saw it as a form of worship. In Kandinsky’s book Concerning the Spiritual In Art (1910), the artist declared that “colour is a power which directly influences the soul.” He felt that the use of color was not merely a means of representing objects and forms, but rather a method of reaching a level of spirituality.
“All means [in painting] are sacred when they are dictated by inner necessity,” he wrote. “All means are reprehensible when they do not spring from the fountain of inner necessity… The artist must be blind to “recognized” and “unrecognized” form, deaf to the teachings and desires of his time. His open eyes must be directed to his inner life and his ears must be constantly attuned to the voice of inner necessity.”
8. His art was confiscated by the Nazis before he died. While he was a Bauhaus professor, three of his first “Compositions” were seized by Nazis and put on display in the now infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibition in 1937. They were then destroyed.
9. His art now sells for millions and millions of dollars. His 1909 painting “Studie fur Improvisation 8” sold for $23 million at Christie’s in 2012.
The Kandinsky Effect – Billy Pilgrim
What do you get when you combine an American saxophonist, a self-proclaimed “total gringo” bassist and a French drummer, playing progressive jazz in Europe? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But The Kandinsky Effect, composed of Warren Walker (saxophone), Gael Petrina (acoustic and electric bass) and Gautier Garrigue (drums), sure as heck blow the roof off the joint trying to figure it out for themselves.
The group’s self-titled release finds it turning a number of seeming roadblocks into advantages, creating an organic, forward-thinking record. First and foremost, despite (or maybe because of) their disparate backgrounds, all three musicians are on the same page, and their communication on this record borders on the telepathic. Though the album is relatively through-composed, just listen to “Flow,” the aptly titled closing track. Petrina starts off with a complicated ostinato bass line on acoustic. Garrigue quickly joins him and they’re off to the races. Walker enters soon afterwards, unhurried even as he catches up to the pace set by the rhythm section. Abruptly, the band flows into a second, darker section, leading to a Walker solo. Flying up and down the register of his horn, Walker achieves Chris Potter
—like tension and release. But make no mistake, he is merely following the beat set by Petrina, whose bass is ever-present. Walker then lays out, leading to a short composed section and a Garrigue solo accompanied by Petrina.
Remarkably, in the middle of the solo, both players halve the tempo at the same exact moment, and then pick up again. A blip on the radar screen, but something only two simpatico players at their most in-the-moment could have accomplished. The rest of the tune devolves into a series of echoes and electronic effects backed by Garrigue’s staunch groove, before returning to the original quick theme. The group’s single mind is able to make what could very easily be a complicated listen into 6:34 of bliss.
Then there is the instrumentation. Saxophone, bass and drums is a notoriously difficult idiom with which to keep listeners interested, as noted here. But it’s the variations on the traditional trio that make this album one that listeners will return to time and again. Walker’s use of effects, both through his saxophone and otherwise, is new and different but always tasteful, while Petrina’s electric bass proves quite refreshing. With spare instrumentation such as this, the tendency is often to overplay in order to fill the void, but at no point does The Kandinsky Effect try to do too much. The group stays well within its capabilities and lets the compositions speak for themselves.
Finally, there is the place. All three musicians are based in Paris, and the album was recorded in Basel, Switzerland. Neither city is exactly a world-renowned jazz hub. The location, however, proves liberating. There is no pressure on the group to conform to blues-based, American jazz expectations. For sure, The Kandinsky Effect are steeped in blues tradition. Just listen to “New Year’s Day” and revel in its dark funk. But The Kandinsky Effect succeeds because of its ability to combine the diverse influences of the bandmembers into a coherent whole. Case in point: there is only a single cover on the album, “Girl/Boy Song” by Aphex Twin, the electronica pioneers.
The Kandinsky Effect is an album that can be appreciated on many levels—a cursory listen is perfect as conversation-starting background music at a Parisian soirée, while a closer listen rewards listeners with moments such as the halving of tempo in “Flow” described above. Walker, Petrina and Garrigue will continue to be heard from as they develop their individual and collective sounds.
Source: All About Jazz