Opened this week at the Tate Modern in London is “Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde”, the first major exhibition in the UK devoted to the Dutch artist and pivotal figure of the European avant-garde, Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931).
Van Doesburg is perhaps best known for founding the De Stijl (Dutch for “The Style”) magazine and movement. This artistic collective of painters, architects and designers sought to build a new society in the aftermath of World War I, advocating an international style of art and design based on a strict geometry of horizontals and verticals. Van Doesburg travelled extensively in Europe in the 1920s making connections and collaborating with avant-garde contemporaries of the time. This exhibition explores Doesburg’s role as promoter of Dutch Neoplasticism, his Dada personality, his efforts to influence the Bauhaus, his links with international Constructivists, and his creation of the group Art Concret. Including over 350 works (many unseen in the UK before) by key artists as Jean Arp, Constantin Brancusi, László Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian, Francis Picabia, Gerrit Rietveld, Kurt Schwitters and Sophie Taeuber, the exhibition features van Doesburg’s rarely-seen Counter-Composition paintings and designs for the Café Aubette in Stasbourg, furniture such as Rietveld’s iconic Red-Blue chair, as well as typography, magazines, stained glass, film, music, sculpture and more.
If you don’t recognise his name but find his work familiar it may be because minimalist alt rock duo The White Stripes took De Stijl as inspiration for their second album, called “De Stijl”. The album cover features common elements of the De Stijl aesthetic, which sets the band members against an abstract background of rectangles and lines in red, black and white. The White Stripes have even cited the minimalist and deconstructionalist aspects of De Stijl design as a source of inspiration for their own musical image and presentation. We are also big fans of De Stijl here at slamxhype too, and for us this is a must visit!
This is the latest in the Tate’s series of shows examining different different aspects of Modernism, conceived by Vicente Todolí, Director of Tate Modern and is running till 16th May 2010.