The Planar Dimension

Been reading the catalog of a 1979 show at the Guggenheim Museum called The Planar Dimension. The essay by Margit Rowell can only be described as lucid and enlightening. Her discussion of Picasso’s constructions is brilliant, and the essay in its entirety is essential for anyone interested in the problems of relief painting. The concluding sentence of the essay summarizes the important idea of the entire show and catalog: “It is worth considering that the assertion of open space which characterizes much twentieth century art came about through the extension of two-dimensional surfaces, or a pictorial spatial concept, into actual space.” That pretty well summarizes something that a lot of painters find difficult to accept, namely that painting is not restricted to colored pigment pushed over a surface. Stella evidently learned a lot from this show, visible in his work. Some of the artists included, such as László Peri, Antoine Pevsner and Vilhelm Lundstrøm, are clearly precursors, and it is surprising and illuminating to put them in relation to Stella, since they are generally not names to conjure with. Peri made reliefs in cast concrete,

Laszlo Peri, 'Space Construction 10', pigmented concrete, original1922/23, concrete version 1930-50

Laszlo Peri, Space Construction 10, pigmented concrete, original 1922/23, concrete version 1930-50

of which these are two examples. They mix illusionism with cut out shapes and

László Peri, Space construction VI 1922-23

László Peri, Space construction VI 1922-23

impressions into the concrete, a kind of relief. They are also polychrome. Lundstrøm’s work resembles nothing so much as Stella’s Cones and Pillars in the way it mixes tactile paint with metal forms, the more interesting the comparison in that it is so clearly unresolved, experimental, small and has suffered over time.

Wilhelm Lundstrøm, Lattice Picture 1917

Vilhelm Lundstrøm, Lattice Picture 1917

But it’s the comparison with Pevsner that gives me a shock. Pevsner and Gabo represent a position that seems definitively obsolete today. I remember years ago hearing Jeff Wall ridicule Gabo, who he described as MORMA—middle of the road modern art. This piece by Pevsner is called Bust, so the two large circles might be breasts, but if it is reversed, a

Antoine Pevsner, Bust 1923-24

Antoine Pevsner, Bust 1923-24

mistake that often happens, it looks very clearly like a face or head.

Antoine Pevsner, Bust 1923-24 (reversed?)

Antoine Pevsner, Bust 1923-24 (reversed?)

Materials like celluloid and painted metal are right in Stella’s ballpark, as are the circular holes, but the figurative aspect is truly uncanny. There’s more to learn from Rowell’s catalog, which I will revisit.

This entry was posted in Early Abstraction, Principles of Abstraction and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Planar Dimension

  1. peter peri says:

    dear robert, glad to see a mention of my grandfather laszlo peri, you should be aware though that the first image you used “composition au demi cercle bleu” is a fake, very poor quality at that. there are several around on the internet. best. peter peri

  2. Mr. Peri, thanks so much for making a comment. I’m astonished that you found my site, though I guess that’s what the internet is all about. I chose that image because it is more colorful and much clearer than the reproductions in the Guggenheim catalog. That it’s a fake is very interesting in itself.

    • peter peri says:

      Yes I found your text because I try to weed out these clumsy fakes which come up regularly for sale at the smaller auction houses. My grandfather was forced to leave Berlin in 1933 in a hurry and most of his abstract works were burned by the Nazi concierge of his building. The works that have survived demonstrate the great formal clarity of his work and make Lissitzky, Arp and Moholy-Nagy’s admiration for it understandable. Sadly it’s another internet phenomenon that anyone can post an image and then it gains a certain currency. When an image is reposted in a serious article such as yours this is compounded. Laszlo Peri’s work is undeservedly obscure and the internet’s dominance means that most people will look to it first in researching a liitle known artist. Accordingly I feel you have a responsibility to take advice such as mine seriously, or at least to satisfy yourself as to an image’s authenticity. You write that Margit Rowell’s text is enlightening, I find it hard to understand how you think using this image could be anything but obsfucating. Perhaps the fact that it is a fake might be interesting in a piece on forgeries of Constructivist art but in a short intro to an artist’s work it’s unhelpful to say the least.
      Politically comitted Constructivism was not known for it’s colourfulness but there is a nice bright red Space Construction by Peri that might suit you which I’d be very happy to forward. Just let me know.

      • I take the criticism, and would be happy to substitute your image for the one on the post. The images don’t have to be colourful, but the ones in the Guggenheim catalogue were very low quality it seemed to me. I don’t really have the time or resources to research every image, but this conversation is also now in the public record, so that should help with your efforts to expose fakes. I’m very glad to have your contribution to the blog. You might be interested in an earlier post that’s about the aging of a work.

        • Peter peri says:

          Thank you, I appreciate that. I’m travelling at the moment but will send you a couple of image options next week. Thanks for the link also.

  3. ann says:

    Fascinating to read the above conversation about the fake.

    M. Peri, thank you for the story about your grandfather’s work, and how it was destroyed by the concierge. Do you have any of his work yourself?

    • Arthur Dijkstra says:

      Visiting the IVAM yesterday there was one piece I drew on a piece of paper and wrote down the maker: Laszlo Peri, and his Raumkonstruktion of 1922: brilliant and beautiful.

      Arthur Dijkstra

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *