Monday, July 11, 2011

Colors and music

100 years have gone by since a memorable concert took place in Vienna and this commemoration makes the exhibition at the Kampa Museum in Prague timely: "Abstraction and Atonality" presents three artists, Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957) and Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951). It is a low key but powerful event. Small, early works from Kandinsky have been assembled, and it is a delight to look at his woodcuts, watercolors from 1911, 1913, with themes of his natal Russia, fairytales, horses running in the countryside, peasants and noblewomen. The progression to abstract culminates by the end of the exhibition with Impression V, 1911, a colorful oil painting.

Paintings from Schoenberg, the composer, occupy a whole room, self-portraits, hands and eyes, fascinating, bulging, like thoughts and brain were trying to escape the skull through the sockets. His paintings are dark, somber, romantic, with a flavor of Edward Munch. Schoenberg himself decided to curtail his painting and concentrate on his musical career.

Colors always stayed his subject when composing music and he created a musical scale of colors. This is well documented with scores of music like "Yellow Sound". The historical significance of these little pieces of paper cannot be enough emphasized. Schoenberg and Kandinsky's work cristallize the research in synesthesia.
How does Kupka fit in the exhibition? His works are on permanent display at the museum and this exhibition provides the occasion to show his paintings in a different light. Born in eastern Bohemia, he was trained at the Prague Art Academy and later at the Ecole des Beaux-Art in Paris, where he moved in his early twenties. He spent most of his productive life in Paris.

He was interested in using colors and free them from shapes, and his search for abstract develops in front of our eyes, with his colorwheels displayed at the exhibition. The guard, a very persuasive older lady "invited me" (pulled a chair and ordered me to sit) and brought a book in English about Kupka. Full of pride she pointed out to pages about the painter, photographs, and more. Kupka is one more artist brought back home, the Czech Republic is claiming its artists.

The exhibition assembled works from private collections, the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Kampa Museum which contains more than 200 paintings from Kupka.

Kampa Museum, photograph by the author

"Self-Portrait", Arnold Schoenberg, 1910

"The Kathedrala", Frantisek Kupka, 1912-1913

"Impression V", Wassily Kandinsky, 1911

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