Geometry

The modernist visionary Piet Mondrian once said that, “Every true artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.”⁣ As his painting style progressed and the subject matter of his paintings submitted to a regularized grid, Mondrian began instead to seek beauty in the balance and composition of geometric shapes and color placements.

The welcome limitations of geometrical abstraction were also crucial to the paintings of the German painter and educator Josef Albers. Placing complementary colors against one another to produce brilliant optical effects, for Albers, the compositional device of squares within squares brought focus to and aestheticized the color theory he taught to students at the Bauhaus.

Today, contemporary artists expand upon or deconstruct this modernist legacy. In Trudy Benson's Jag, for instance, shapes shake loose from the grid. Rather than replicating the precision of hard-edge abstraction, geometrical imperfections and misalignments evoke movement, individuality and the exuberance of dance. The Chicago-based artist Deb Sokolow also uses geometry to evoke the ways in which human bodies activate the architectural spaces of commerce or work, combining order, disorder, stasis and movement.

The geometrical explorations in the paintings of Graham Anderson and the photographs of architect Erin O'Keefe focus on the compositional division of a picture plane while also obeying the rules of traditional perspective painting. In O'Keefe's Arabesque, two large forms constructed by their negative space overlap one another within a room that looks at once as if it could be entered by the viewer, while also maintaining an air of playful impermeability.

In Anderson's Untitled, an ordinary orange is the starting point for exercises in composition and color theory, with bright slices of the fruit "balancing" against the complementary turquoise stripes that occupy the majority of the canvas. The result goes to the heart of compositional balance, evidence that artists continue to push the use of geometric forms in novel ways.