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Kandinsky in Madrid

Abstraction and Empathy


If we take it literally, the straightforward title of the most mediatic exhibition currently on view at Madrid City Hall’s CentroCentro – ‘Kandinsky: A Retrospective’ – can be said to be adequate. It is in fact a journey through the Russian artist’s entire career, from his beginnings in the Munich of the expressionist avant-gardes, where Wassily Kandinsky felt the call of abstraction after listening to music by the Austrian composer and painter Arnold Schönberg, to the return to Soviet Russia, where he altogether committed himself to experimenting with the non-figurative, to his return to Germany for fruitful work at the Bauhaus, where his classes and his works, characterized by planes and basic colors, would mark an entire generation, and finally to his years in Paris, where he explored an alternative abstraction with echoes of Joan Miró.

The title of the exhibition, however, becomes questionable if we take a look at the works on display. Few of them are real masterpieces, and those that may be considered masterworks are juxtaposed with minor pieces. Moreover, the selection is clearly biased towards the artist’s Parisian period, which, however interesting or unknown of, is less important in the larger scheme of Kandinsky’s lifework. The slant can be explained by the provenance of the works: the Centre Pompidou.

Nevertheless, it’s a good exhibition, well mounted and structured, presented with clarity, and it’s a splendid introduction to the empathic and lyrical abstract world of the Russian master.

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