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An Open Mind at Maddox Arts
28 April – 24 June 2017
Review by Piers Veness
Gloria Carnevali has also written about An Open Mind. This is reproduced with her permission here.
Curated by Gloria Carnevali and in collaboration with Galerie Denise René in Paris,
An Open Mind brings together Geometric Abstraction, Optical Abstraction, and Kinetic
Art from the early 30s to the 2010s, notable for the range of nationalities of the
artists. There are some big guns on display: Sonia Delaunay, Victor Vasarely and
During her curator's talk about the exhibition, Carnevali outlined the influence
Henryk Stazewski, untitled number 87, 1974, oil on hardboard, 64.5 x 64.5 cm (left); untitled number 24, 1979, oil on hardboard, 64.5 x 64.5 cm (right). Courtesy Maddox Arts, London.
A sense of space is undoubtedly present in the two supremely minimalist paintings
by the Polish painter Stazewski. Untitled 87 (1974) is dominated by a narrow band
of four vibrant colours floating diagonally in the square of white canvas. If you
look at that band long enough, it seems to be drifting slowly to the right of the
canvas. Untitled 24 (1979) has just two elements -
Geneviève Claisse, Quark Bleu, 1975, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Courtesy Maddox Arts, London.
French painter Geneviève Claisse's geometric abstract piece Quark Bleu (1975), another white, square canvas, roughly divides the picture plane into nine smaller squares of white and four shades of the same blue. As with the Stazewski work, the white acts as a visual void over which the blue squares hover. The tonal difference between the blues leads the eye clockwise around the painting; logically from the right to the top; and at the same time, the darker squares seem further away than the lighter ones. Consequently, the eye doesn't just move around the canvas, it moves in and out of it.
Sonia Delaunay, Composition en Verte, Rouge et Bleu, 1959, gouache on paper, 27 x 19,5 cm. Courtesy Maddox Arts, London.
Sonia Delaunay's gouache sketch Composition en Verte, Rouge et Bleu (1959) opens the door to this spatial interplay between forms, despite not quite achieving it as successfully as Stazewski or Claisse. A composition of circles and squares which at times sit one upon the other, it is a kind of precursor to the later pieces in the show, and helps us understand how Geometric Abstraction developed. Forever a colourist, Delaunay's red, green and an outrageously exquisite azure blue are what really hit you; the appearance of depth plays a very second fiddle.
Victor Vasarely, Harmène, 1949-
Vasarely is well-
Cícero Dias, Voisinage, 1964, oil on canvas, 100 x 81 cm. Courtesy Maddox Arts, London.
Brazilian artist Cícero Dias' 1964 piece Voisinage is one of my favourites, and the
one which for me which seems most recent. Its angular dynamism and the way the forms
occupy the canvas, barely touching the sides save for the top-
Jesús Soto, Tirature, 1966, wood, 54 x 17 x 17 cm. Courtesy Maddox Arts, London.
Although the majority of the work in An Open Mind is painting, it's worth mentioning a sculpture by Soto, from Venezuela. A keen musician, his approach to sculpture was informed by musical structures. Beginning with small sculptures such as Tirature (1966), he worked in black and white and primary colours to create his compositions. Sculptures are, by their very nature, spatial phenomena, but Tirature has some strong similarities with other work in the show, for example the use of black and white, a sense of depth, and hard lines.
The final piece that really impresses me is by Carlos Cruz-
Did the show meet Carnevali's objectives? Yes. In the majority of the work there is a strong sense of depth, and a sense of physicality. However, for me the overriding pleasure was seeing so many great abstract pieces from so many different moments and nationalities exhibited together, and I really appreciated the historical importance of so many key pioneers and influencers from Geometric, Optic and Kinetic abstraction in one place.
© Piers Veness, 2017