Abstraction,  Painting

MONDRIAN80 – Norte Maar

By Paul Goodman
6 June 2024

Norte Maar
88 Pine Street
Brooklyn NY 11208 USA

Leonardo Drew Number 75 X, 2024 Wood, paint, and plaster 11.25 x 11.25 inches Courtesy of the artist

An event was held this past Saturday (June 1, 2024) in a modest neighborhood of eastern Brooklyn which commemorated the 80th anniversary of Piet Mondrian’s death. This seemed a curious location unless one understood the famed Dutch modernist painter spent his last three and a half years in New York City, and was buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery upon his passing in 1944.

The co-curators of the event, MONDRIAN80were gallerist Jason Andrew and artist Max Estenger. Together they recalled this anniversary to address the pure idealism of Mondrian’s utopian vision. The affair began with a trip to Mondrian’s humble gravesite. Those gathered there enjoyed a contemporary dance piece performed by Julia Gleich and two male colleagues, who moved gracefully and gestured intensely amongst the rows of headstones which line this potter’s field. Following the performance, Estenger invoked Mondrian’s example and made an impassioned plea for abstraction, namely its call for realization free of any vogue for didactic political art.

The afternoon then continued at nearby Norte Maar gallery, where 33 artists each contributed a small work to a focused exhibition, also titled MONDRIAN80. All abstract modes were good to go there, from concrete severity to reductive translation, from the unabashedly lyrical to openly organic design. This was a partisan effort, with much that’s admirably refreshing in these compact works. The exhibition’s identification with an actual pluralism is that which the mainstream art world might embrace more liberally, but what’s clearly open to further debate is the claim abstraction was but reflective of a moment in time, the outcome of a linear progression which found its peak between 1944 and 1974. Perhaps those who pledged fealty to “the style” in that particular moment were only doing so under the pressure of historical inevitability? Were hearts instead with explicitly figurative approaches which found intent with Pop Art, and its like-minded types of expression? This hardly seems possible, but in looking around today these questions seem quite plausible— consider the stature of Phillip Guston, and the influence of his late- in-life apostasy, for example.

Nonetheless, one has to respect a lingering sense of resistance embodied by the works in MONDRIAN80If anything, there remains an undeniable presence to them which is missing in many things which sadly, now, look as if they may have been made at any random moment at all in the past hundred years or so. This pointed observation asks what specifically remains of execution, of purpose, or even of reason. As the polymath musician Phil Ochs, no stranger to dissent, said long ago, “In such ugly times, the true protest is beauty.”

See this exhibition, and render your own verdict.

Norte Maar
88 Pine Street
Brooklyn NY 11208 USA
1 June — 6 July
Saturdays 1—6 pm or by appointment www.nortemaar.org

Organized by Jason Andrew and Max Estenger


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