Art Preview: Wassily Kandinsky and Frank Stella at the Phillips Collection
Two new exhibits showcase the musical inspiration behind the art
"Sketch 1 for Painting with White Border" by Wassily Kandinsky, and K.54 by Frank Stella are two of the works currently on display at the Phillips Collection."
Music might be the food of love, but according to two new shows opening at the Phillips Collection this weekend, it’s the food of art, too. Wassily Kandinsky, who once wrote of art that “color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings” gets a close-up in Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border, which includes one of the Russian artist’s most famous and studied works along with 12 preparatory studies. And in Stella Sounds: The Scarlatti K Series, Frank Stella’s music-inspired Scarlatti Kirkpatrick series of sculptures gets its first museum show, comparing Stella’s innovative fusion of artistic mediums with Kandinsky’s trailblazing experiments with form.
Stella’s works, inspired by Ralph Kirkpatrick’s catalog of Scarlatti sonatas, are an intriguing counterpoint to Kandinsky in their fusion of sculpture, painting, and music. The whirling, extravagant lines resemble a mess of notes and figures, but with the measured specificity of Kandinsky’s studies, and a thoughtful approach to rhythm and movement. Stella “draws” with metal, creating small, handcrafted middles first before fleshing them out on a computer. His sculptural final pieces are sometimes brightly colored, sometimes technical, but always balanced. One piece, “K.54,” has organic elements resembling plant skeletons, while another, “K.51,” suggests an automobile engine fused with a giant bug. Each line seems to have a different tactile sense, where elegance is somehow combined with weight. These are focused shows, but they offer some broad insight into the fluidity of art, and a nuanced look at the originality of both artists.
Both exhibits are at the Phillips Collection June 11 through September 4; admission is $12. For more information, visit the Phillips Collection’s Web site.