Black Lines/Several Circles

7:00 AM

Kandinsky, Black Lines, 1913
Kandinsky, Several Circles, 1926





Starting on Monday, the students of the Modern Art History class will post writings that link painting and film. What makes me happy about this - they are the ones that came up with the idea. 

As I thought back to film that actually made me think about art, I came back to the adaptation of John Guare's play Six Degrees of Separation. In the 1993 film (and play) a young confidence man, Paul, intrudes upon the rarefied world of Flan and Ouisa Kittredge. Flan looks to sell a mid-period Cezanne to a Japanese syndicate, but his plans are temporarily interrupted by the arrival of Paul, who claims to be friends with the Kittredge's kids. The film and play each explore questions of identity, self-absorption and empathy. They are also each littered with literary and artistic references ranging from a theory on Holden Caulfield's cap to a non-existent Kandinsky. 

The rotating Kandinsky, which would be quite cool, doesn't actually exist. Guare invented it to help deepen the themes of chaos and control that define the lives of Ouisa and Flan. The paintings now live  at the Guggenheim, but they were painted 13 years apart. I have always loved each side of the Kandinsky - the vibrant, often violent abstractionist and geometrically-obsessed Apollonian. Here, though, it's Flan's quotation of Kandinsky that brings me a smile. 

Kandinsky said, "It is clear, therefore, that the choice of object that is one of the elements in the harmony of form must be decided only by a corresponding vibration in the human soul." In other words, the work must speak to us on a level that can't necessarily be expressed. Learning to see will always be a part of any Art History class; however, what I hope you can see in all the posts here is the rather joyous process of students learning how to hear and feel the vibrations of art. 

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