Currently in the Kemper Contemporary Art Museum in Kansas City, there is an exhibit called, “Deconstructing Robert Mangold.” Mangold is a minimalist artist who was very profound in the Modern Art movement. On display are 7 woodcut prints titled “untitled A-G”, along with pieces from the museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition brings together a very wide range of conceptual pieces that form some sort of connection with Mangold’s seven prints.
untitled (A-G), 2000; from the portfolio of Robert Mangold Print
At a glance, these woodcuts are representations of geometric analysis’s, and no two prints are exactly alike in terms of structure. There are niches cut out of the prints that clash with the idea of artistic structural formulas. When walking around the gallery space, the viewer must interpret how the pieces made by generations of different artists relate to Mangold’s seven small prints.
Out of the many pieces in the gallery, there were three that stood out to me as truly relating to the inspiration for the collection, the first bring a piece called Murmur.
Murmur 2014, Cheonae Kim; acrylic and graphite on canvas
I was drawn to the piece mainly due to how busy it is; the shapes made by dozens of tiny squares create a piece that feels as though it is vibrating on the canvas. From far away, the lines seem crisp and perfectly straight, but when you get a closer look, you are able to tell how loosely Kim creates her abstract paintings. While this piece is almost overly simulating compared to the simplicity of Mangold’s prints, there is a connection between the use of loose, structural lines. The print series and the painting are both logical and playful at the same time; one invoking a simple whimsy in geometric shapes, and the other reminding the viewer of the popular game Tetris.
The second piece that I feel connects with Mangold is Movement in White, Umber and Cobalt Blue.
Movement in White, Umber, and Cobalt Blue 1950; John Marin
This piece is much different from Murmur in the sense that the overall subject matter is much looser. You don’t have to get close to the canvas to see how loosely Marin used his three colors to create the composition. What does tie this piece to Mangold’s is how even though the subject matter is more free form, there is still a sense of structural unity in the piece. The background is full of squares and crossing lines than create a subtle frame work that relates to Mangold’s structurally sound woodcuts. There is also a relation through the low key color choices of both artists. The colors are calm, yet are boldly added on top of the cream background, creating strong compositions.
The final piece that stuck out to me as truly connecting with the original seven is Study for Self Portrait.
Study for Self Portrait, 1982, Francis Bacon; color lithograph
Out of all the other pieces in the exhibit, this seemed the most out of place at first glance. It is one of the only pieces with an organic form as the main subject of the work. But after studying it more carefully, the viewer can connect the geometric structure of the background to Mangold’s prints. There is also a square-like quality to the figure itself; it is closed off and could easily be broken down into a box-like form. The color choice also connects in the same way that Movement does, with the low key quality of the image really pushing out the idea of the form and lines, rather than making bold choices with color. The softness of the human figure also ties in with the rounded lines in Mangold’s prints, but doesn’t take away from the sharpness of the straight lines in the background.
Artists are constantly pulling inspiration from other artists. It’s not cheating to use an idea that dawns on you while looking at the art of someone that you admire. Art is constantly evolving, and with exhibits like this, we are able to understand how our work relates to our fellow peers and people we aspire to be like. “Deconstructing Robert Mangold” is an exhibit I will more definitely spend more time in during future visits so that I can better understand the art of inspiration that moves throughout the artistic community.
Until Next Time,
I’m back! Excuse the leave of absence; stick around for more future posts!