Monday, November 15, 2010

In Transition

(Piet Mondrian, Apple Tree in Flower, 1912)

Sometimes there’s talk of an artist’s work being “in transition.” My take on this expression is that it means that the work is neither quite here nor there. It’s evolving. An artist’s work is always evolving, yes, but sometimes a direction is not quite ripened, and that’s what I think they mean (he, my visitor last week, means) by “in transition.”

“In transition” can be very beguiling because it’s searching. You can see the artist’s struggles, experiments and also her failures. “In transition” is vulnerable. After “in transition” comes another phase. Often I hear the word “resolved” to describe it. “Resolution” is confident, it’s a problem solved. A piece or series is “resolved” when a direction is settled upon. This is exciting, of course, because of the depth that can then be explored.

Mondrian is a good example. First his work evolved from traditional landscapes to schematic trees. We could call this the “transitional” phase. Then he came to settle on his iconic grids. Once this was “resolved” he explored and explored. And each work presents its own “resolution.”

Two things: it's stimulating to see that early development from tree to grid. And some artists adopt the transition as a "position." Kippenberger called this mobility the "running gag." More on this another time.


Max Stevens said...

Great post. I personally like the aestehtics of transition, of a work always in the process of becoming something else, but the something else never arrives because it, too, is in the process of becoming. It's freeing in a way and keeps you on your toes.

Molly Stevens said...

I think you've written about the transitional work of the Beatles. I'd love to read some more about that.