This work belongs to a series of drawings, the subjects of which was the sea and a pier jutting out from the beach into the waters.

Even though less and less importance attached to the particular and contingent appearance of a certain landscape in 1915, the artist probably saw the pier structure as a man-made, solid element, the symbol of permanence, compenetrating with the dynamic flow of nature (the sea). The vertical pier appears designed to express something more constant while the horizontal sea heralds multiplicity and change.
These are issues that go beyond the particular aspect of a cerain landscape to face a dialectic between the changing aspects of life and the human need to stabilize them and find something of greater constancy and duration. We are constantly stimulated by the unforeseeable flow of existence in everyday life and open up to innovation on the one hand while seeking to maintain the integrity of our established equilibriums on the other.

 

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  Pier and Ocean 5, 1915, Charcoal, Ink (?) and Gouache on Paper, cm. 87,9 x 111,7, MoMA, NYC, USA

Pier and Ocean 5 - Diagram A

Pier and Ocean 5 - Diagram B

 

 

 
           

The interaction between the upward vertical progression of the pier (at the center bottom) and the horizontal expansion of the sea generates a multiplicity of different signs; a whole variety of situations where something changes every instant. Every sign is unique by virtue of the different type of relationship established in each case between the two opposing directions. The variety of unstable signs finds a more balanced and lasting situation in a square form which generates in the upper part of the composition (Diagram A). A square is namely an equivalence of horizontal and vertical. In that square, for an instant, the variety of ever-changing signs reaches equilibrium and unity.
The juxtaposition that produces open and unstable situations elsewhere is transformed into interpenetration that generates harmony in that square.

 

A second square can be seen above the square that we have identified as a unitary synthesis of the opposites (Diagram B).
Inside the second square we see a vertical segment and two horizontal segments that extend beyond the boundary of the square to the right and left. The two small horizontal segments form two crosses with the two vertical sides of the square. These two signs tell us that unity is opening up to duality. The unitary synthesis achieved in the lower square in the form of the equivalence of opposites is again broken up into a duality that then flows back toward the variety of unforseeable situations marked again by the alternating predominance of one direction or the other. The unity generated with the first square opens up again to manifold space with the second.

 

Twenty-seven years later we see in the brightest form an analogous process from a multiplicity of different parts to a unity and from that unity back to a new multiplicity. Mondrian described life as continued examination of the same thing in ever-greater depth.
A more detailed explanation of Pier and Ocean 5 can be found on t
he home page under individual works.

 
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