Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Strasbourg: The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art

Strasbourg's Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, across the Ill River from the Petite France neigborhood, is a light and well-designed building for showing its great collection of art from the late 19th century to the present. The galleries are of various sizes, located on two floors off a central longitudinal atrium. There's a very nice cafe on the top floor, with views of the river.

The museum houses works by artists ranging from Gustave Dore to Robert Mapplethorpe, with works by Monet, Sisley, Man Ray, and William Wegman and many, many others along the way. I was particularly happy to find a number of works by Theo Van Doesberg, who, with Piet Mondrian, was a founder of the Dutch movement in abstract art known as De Stijl. This approach to art, both geometric and organic, is also known as neo-plasticism. Here is a set of stained-glass windows by Van Doesberg, "Composition in Three Panels," from 1927.

Van Doesburg was probably the biggest influence and inspiration for my own art--meager though the output. Interestingly, I had been working in abstract stained glass inspired by Van Doesberg's paintings, without knowing that he'd produced stained glass works. Here's a second piece of stained glass by Van Doesberg, also from 1927, entitled "Geometric composition." The combination of asymmetries and balances between color and size is what I think is particularly wonderful.

Another work in the museum is a model of a night club, the Cine-Dansing de l'Aubette, created in 1990 following Van Doesburg's drawings from 1927-28. The night club, actually built in Strasbourg, was designed in collaboration with Jean Arp, a Strasbourg native, and Sophie Tauber-Arp. This model is about two feet wide. You can see how the movie screen on the far wall becomes part of Van Doesburg's geometric designs. The actual Cine-Dansing de l'Aubette was recently partially restored and reconstituted; the model shows what the original design would have looked like.

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