Last week, Uber invited me to the Guggenheim Museum to see a new exhibition on the Swedish female artist, Hilma af Klint.
To be honest, I hadn’t heard of her (only 5% of United States and European Museum collections are comprised of female artists’ work). But beyond that, there’s more to the story. So, I went to stand in front of her paintings and find out about this woman’s life.
Her work was wonderful, I mean, I really genuinely was fascinated by it. When I first walked in, my immediate reaction was to feel some sort of optimism in response to her shapes and color usage. It’s playful and nice, but has a calmness to it. They felt sort of botanical and mathematical… like whimsical colorful universes floating inside jars that were in the form of frames. See for yourself.
When I go to museums, I look first, then I read. It makes more sense for me to process it that way (I also really prefer to go to museums alone). So after viewing the exhibit, I started reading about all of the pieces I had just seen (there are a ton) and was pretty intrigued by her story.
Klint lived in a very different time than we do. She painted these abstract pieces in private because she thought they were ahead of her time. That thought made me think… whoa, how do you decide something is ahead of it’s time? But then in thinking more, it was obviously indicative of the time period she lived in. Our world is much more open minded than hers was. She began making these abstract paintings in 1906, well before the Abstract movement even began, which means they would’ve been pretty controversial then (especially from a woman, I’m guessing). She began her career creating less controversial paintings such as landscapes and botanicals which she made a living off of - but in secret, she was creating an entire abstract world hidden away from the public eye. She created them as visual representations of complex spiritual ideas as she believed in trying to make contact with the spiritual “high masters” during her life. What I found really cool, was that she said:
Pretty wild. Nice to think she just sat down and started creating and let it flow out of her. She painted more than 1200 pieces.
So, after she died, she had left all of these secretive paintings to her nephew with a stipulation that the boxes could not be opened until 20 years after her death. After 20 years went by, the boxes were opened in the 1960s. Keep in mind, the Abstract Expressionism movement didn’t begin until the 1940s and 1950s… well after she had painted these. The paintings were offered as a gift to the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm in the 70s, but they were declined! It wasn’t until the 80s that they were shown to an international audience.
Anyway, her story is pretty fascinating and her work is just beginning to spread throughout the world - her first solo exhibition in the United States opened on Oct 12th, 2018 at the Guggenheim (this one).
Thank you Uber for sponsoring and giving me a ride to your ‘Instant Opportunity’ in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum. #RethinkTheRatio #OpinionsAreMyOwn!