Major Kandinsky exhibition opens at Frist Art Center

Last updated on November 25th, 2014 at 07:01 pm

Wassily Kandinsky. Achtyrka–Front Entrance to the Dacha, 1917. Oil on canvas. Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de creation industrielle, Paris, Bequest of Mrs. Nina Kandinsky in 1981, AM 81-65-41. Photograph © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM / Dist. RMN-GP © ADAGP, Paris

Wassily Kandinsky. Achtyrka–Front Entrance to the Dacha, 1917. Oil on canvas. Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de creation industrielle, Paris, Bequest of Mrs. Nina Kandinsky in 1981, AM 81-65-41. Photograph © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM / Dist. RMN-GP © ADAGP, Paris

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts presents Kandinsky: A Retrospective, an exhibition celebrating a lifetime of work by Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) in the Center’s Ingram Gallery from September 26, 2014 – January 4, 2015. Chronicling four decades of artistic evolution—from early figurative works to exuberant experiments in abstraction and color—this exhibition invites visitors on an extraordinary stylistic journey of one of the most innovative modern art masters of the twentieth century.

Kandinsky: A Retrospective is drawn largely from the collection of the Centre Pompidou–Paris, and features more than 100 paintings, drawings, and other works. A majority of these stunning works were part of the artist’s personal collection and were given by the artist’s widow, Nina. Additional paintings from the Milwaukee Art Museum, including works by Gabriele Münter, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, further an appreciation of the artist in the context of his contemporaries. The exhibition is organized chronologically and spans the artist’s periods in Russia, Germany, and France.

Celebrate the opening of Kandinsky: A Retrospective and Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible, during a special Community Opening on Friday, September 26 from 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. A cash bar and hors d’oeuvres will be available in the Frist Center’s Grand Lobby from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. Remarks will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Frist Center Auditorium.

Organized chronologically and spanning the artist’s periods in Russia, Germany and France, the exhibition begins with paintings from the early 1900s including landscapes, painted folk tales and figurative works. “These works show how the young artist was influenced by major styles such as Art Nouveau, Impressionism, Symbolism, and Post-Impressionism,” says Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala. In a period of experimentation and movement towards more symbolic work, Kandinsky and other like-minded artists founded Der Blaue Reiter (the Blue Rider) in 1911, a group of artists based in Munich who emphasized the expression of extreme psychological conditions in their art.

Wassily Kandinsky. Painting with Red Spot, 1914. Oil on canvas. Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de creation industrielle, Paris, Gift of  Mrs. Nina Kandinsky in 1976, AM 1976-853. Photograph © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Adam Rzepka/ Dist. RMN-GP © ADAGP, Paris

Wassily Kandinsky. Painting with Red Spot, 1914. Oil on canvas. Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de creation industrielle, Paris, Gift of Mrs. Nina Kandinsky in 1976, AM 1976-853. Photograph © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Adam Rzepka/ Dist. RMN-GP © ADAGP, Paris

“Kandinsky made a radical move away from recognizable subject matter in the belief that painting’s most important property was its capacity to dissolve the outside world and evoke inner conditions,” says Mr. Scala.

Kandinsky felt that music has the capacity to induce spiritual feelings within listeners through its formal arrangement of melodic sounds, harmonies and rhythms. He believed that “painters could similarly ‘orchestrate’ the elements of art—color, form, and line—to trigger pure emotional experiences,” says Mr. Scala. In the theoretical treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Kandinsky wrote that “color is the keyboard. The eye is the hammer, while the soul is a piano of many strings. The artist is the hand through which the medium of different keys causes the human soul to vibrate.”

In 1914, Kandinsky returned to Russia, his country of birth, and married Nina Andreevskaya in 1917. Facing financial hardship and material shortage during World War I and the Russian Revolution, his artistic output was somewhat limited. However, the paintings that Kandinsky did complete, some marking a return to Impressionism, further demonstrated his belief that art should comfort and convey inner meaning rather than provoke and express political views, as other avant-garde Russian artists believed.

Wassily Kandinsky. Black Grid, 1922. Oil on canvas. Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de creation industrielle, Paris, Bequest of Mrs. Nina Kandinsky in 1981, AM 81-65-44. Photograph © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM / Dist. RMN-GP © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Wassily Kandinsky. Black Grid, 1922. Oil on canvas. Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de creation industrielle, Paris, Bequest of Mrs. Nina Kandinsky in 1981, AM 81-65-44. Photograph © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM / Dist. RMN-GP © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Back in Germany during a period of heady intellectualism in the 1920s at the Bauhaus, a highly influential German art school, Kandinsky favored geometric works and created monumental decors, including the large scale mural panels he and his students designed for the Juryfreie Kunstschau—Berlin (Non-juried Art Exhibition—Berlin). The panels, built for a never-realized museum lounge, were intended to immerse the viewer in a complete aesthetic experience.

A 1977 reconstruction of this room is a highlight of this exhibition, and as Kandinsky initially desired, lets “the viewer ‘stroll’ within the picture.” In stark contrast with the rigid geometry of the Bauhaus period, Kandinsky’s paintings from the end of his life and career in France are recognized for their joyful use of biomorphic forms, which reflect the influence of Parisian light and nature as well as Surrealism.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 202-page illustrated catalogue distributed for the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Milwaukee Art Museum by Yale University Press.

Related Public Programs

Friday, September 26 Frist Center Auditorium 12:00 p.m. Free
Curator’s Perspective: Kandinsky: A Retrospective Presented by Angela Lampe, curator, Centre Pompidou

Tuesday, October 7; Tuesday, November 4; and Tuesday, December 2 Lecture Series: “Food for Thought: Kandinsky—Exploring Connections between Music, Science, Spirituality, and the Visual Arts”
11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. with lecture to follow at noon in the Frist Center Auditorium; Free with advance registration; lunch and gallery admission included. Registration for this lecture opened Tuesday, September 16; call Vanderbilt University at 615.322.8585 to register. This three-part lecture series presented by Vanderbilt professors, Frist Center curators, and members of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra provides the community at large with an opportunity to build challenging intellectual connections to the exhibition Kandinsky: A Retrospective. Visit http://www.fristcenter.org for lecture details.

Thursday, October 9 Curator’s Tour: Kandinsky: A Retrospective Presented by Mark Scala, chief curator, Frist Center12:00 p.m.

Thursday, November 6 Lecture: “Understanding Kandinsky in His Early Twentieth Century Context” Frist Center Auditorium Presented by Linda Dalrymple Henderson, Ph.D., David Bruton, Jr., Centennial Professor in Art History and Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Professor, The University of Texas, Austin 6:30 p.m. Gallery admission required; members free.

Friday, November 14 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, November 18 12:00 p.m. ARTini: Kandinsky: A Retrospective Join Frist Center Associate Curator of Interpretation Megan Robertson as she explores a few of the works of this influential Russian painter and art theorist. Meet at exhibition entrance Gallery admission required; members free.

Thursday, November 20 Performance: “Blue-Yellow-Red” Presented by Robbie Hunsinger and Missy Raines 6:30 p.m. Rechter Room
Interdisciplinary artist and transmedia performer Robbie Lynn Hunsinger will present an original composition inspired by the art and writings of Wassily Kandinsky that explores synesthesia and the interconnectedness of music, visual art and the senses. Hunsinger’s multimedia concert piece complements the motifs and visual materials of her concurrent interactive installation, Blue-Yellow-Red, on view in the Frist Center’s Rechter Room from November 13–21, 2014. Virtuoso bassist Missy Raines will join multi-instrumentalist Hunsinger for this premiere performance of “Blue-Yellow-Red” for acoustic instruments, laptop, and projector.