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Mondrian began by painting in a traditional style. Those who would now like to see how he arrived at this genre of compositions can consult this page.

In order to understand the genesis of Broadway Boogie Woogie it is necessary to start from the preceding canvas New York City

 
 

New York City, 1942, Oil on Canvas, cm.114,2 x 119,3

 

 

New York City features a set of horizontal lines intersected by vertical lines of yellow, red and blue. Mondrian says in his writings that "the lines do not stop continuing."
The lines ideally continue beyond the finite field of the canvas evoking a virtually infinite space.

Drawing horizontal lines through vertical lines means generating in visual terms a relationship between opposite entities.
"Here appears the name of the fundamental law of nature: relation" (Vito Mancuso, L'Anima e il Suo Destino, p. 17)
"There is growing evidence that all things are created out of relation, sustain themselves by virtue of that relation, and develop through interdependence." (Guido Mendogni and Vito Mancuso / FAN Page Audio - June 7 at 10:36 a.m. - Veneto - The Universe as the Setting for Divine Revelation. The spiritual implications of quantum physics).

The meeting of a horizontal line with a vertical line generates an instantaneous co-presence of opposite directions which manifests itself in the form of small squares inside the lines; these are small units which consist of an intrinsic duality unlike any single line which expresses univocity (only horizontal or vertical). Thus was born Broadway Boogie Woogie.

From now on the reproductions of the original painting will be repeated on the left while on the right we will see explanatory diagrams I have elaborated to explain the process that leads from the multiple to the one mentioned above.

 
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Broadway Boogie Woogie

 

Broadway Boogie Woogie - Diagram A

The dual nature of the little squares (coexistence of horizontal and vertical) contrasts with the univocal and absolute nature of the line (only horizontal or only vertical) on which they are found. This contrast generates energy that is released through continuous movement of the squares which seek to compensate for the part of themselves that is momentarily missing along the line on which they are.

Also man is born in an infinite space as the natural universe and lives a condition of inner duality, always contended between natural instincts and rational instances.
Reason often contrasts and opposes instincts which often put reason in check. This generates imbalances and temporary failures that lead individuals to act in order to re-establish a better balance with themselves. This is what the little squares that move along the straight lines do, generating a multiple space in continuous becoming.

It may seem irreverent to reduce the human being to a set of colored squares but, continuing the explanation, you will understand that this is not at all reductive.
"Art is the expression of the deepest thought in the simplest way" (Albert Einstein).

   
ingrandisci  

Broadway Boogie Woogie

 

Broadway Boogie Woogie - Diagram B

The small square is born in the instant in which two opposite straight lines meet and then recede. It is that point in which a virtually infinite space (the line) becomes for an instant a finite space; an absolute space (all horizontal or all vertical) is transformed into a relative space (simultaneous presence of horizontal and vertical).
The finite and relative character of the square is in contrast with the infinite and absolute nature of the line on which it is found.

Following the unpredictable flow of the squares along the lines, we note some of them following a more constant and ordered rhythm that results in a symmetrical sequence.
The symmetrical sequences look as if the infinite space of the lines were contracting for a moment into a segment (the more ordered rhythm of the small squares) and therefore finite space (the symmetrical sequence) which then expands again toward the infinite extension of the line. With symmetries, the small squares tend to lead the infinite-absolute back to their finite-relative dimension.

Diagram B: in the area marked with 1 we see two horizontal symmetrical sequences approaching each other and suggesting a possible correspondence in the vertical direction.
A situation which is certainly realized in the area marked with 2 where two vertical symmetrical sequences with a red center correspond in a horizontal sense.
By observing a precise horizontal correspondence between two vertical symmetries, we generate with our gaze a larger area. This materializes in the form of a
small blue area. This growth triggers the birth of other areas of varying size and color that exceed the thickness of each individual line (Diagram C).

 
 

Broadway Boogie Woogie

 

Broadway Boogie Woogie - Diagram C

The small squares join in symmetrical sequences which generate larger areas that we will call planes, in which the relationship between horizontal and vertical is consolidated, that is, the intimate nature of the squares. In the planes the relationship between opposites appears more stable and enduring even if it is always subject to temporary prevalence of one or the other direction.

"It is necessary to make the same movement that is at the origin of creation, a movement of order, of symmetry, a constant work that places more and more stable and balanced relationships." (Vito Mancuso, L'Anima e il Suo Destino, p.204).

 
 

Broadway Boogie Woogie

 

Broadway Boogie Woogie - Diagram D

Compared to the monochrome planes of diagram C, those highlighted in diagram D develop an interior space made visible by a different color. A part of space that tends to concentrate in itself and remain with respect to the space of the lines that continues uninterruptedly dilating our visual field.
From now on we will speak of an external space that is expressed by lines that expand towards one or the other direction and of the same space that simultaneously internalizes itself by concentrating in more stable and lasting relationships between the opposite directions.

The planes that develop an inner space are less affected by the changing pace of the lines and find in themselves a greater balance between the opposing drives.
Similarly, a person who develops and contemplates his inner self, that is, who knows himself, will be less influenced by the events of the surrounding world and will first try to reconcile within himself the contrasts he encounters in the external world.

 
 
Broadway Boogie Woogie

 

Broadway Boogie Woogie - Diagram E

Planes 15 and 16 present a further level of internalization of the external space.

In 17 we see the three primary colors concentrated in a plane, the largest observed so far, composed of a vertical blue field counterbalanced on the inside by a red square within which a horizontal yellow field is generated. It is now a balanced synthesis of vertical, horizontal, yellow, red and blue. This plane evokes unity of the multiple set of yellow, red and blue fragments that from the beginning of the process chase each other along the straight lines in search of compensation and balance between the opposite directions. (Diagram F).

The image presents a geometry in becoming that with the straight lines virtually expands to infinity (the space of nature) while from the relationship between opposite straight lines (small squares, symmetries and planes) progressively concentrates into a finite synthesis. The infinite physical space of nature is progressively transformed into an inner space (a mental or spiritual space) that thinks in finite terms the infinite space of nature.

 
 

Broadway Boogie Woogie

 

Broadway Boogie Woogie - Diagram F

While we observe the composition, which progressively concentrates into more and more stable configurations, the straight lines do not stop continuing and the eye thus finds itself in equilibrium between a space that expands, multiplying into a myriad of fleetingly different parts (the multiplicity of the small squares) and the same space that consolidates into more durable relationships. Theologian Vito Mancuso's words come to mind: "We must make the same movement that is at the origin of creation, a movement of order, of symmetry, a constant work that poses more and more stable and balanced relationships."

From a frenetic outer space (straight lines and small squares) towards a more balanced and permanent inner space (the unitary plane). From the multiple toward the one. From the natural to the spiritual.


 

Broadway Boogie Woogie

 

Broadway Boogie Woogie - Diagram G

Compared to the squares and the first planes, plane 17 expresses synthesis and a relative state of stillness, but it would be wrong to think of it as a static condition but, rather, to a dynamic quiet, the result of opposing drives that counterbalance each other. A slight horizontal expansion of the yellow or a slight vertical growth of the blue would in fact produce imbalance, setting the game of oppositions in motion again; and in fact, continuing the analysis of the painting, we see how this happens:

Plane 18 has the same extension as plane 17 and this induces us to compare the two entities. The synthesis of the three primary colors that was achieved in 17 is now lost in 18, which is formed only by red and gray; horizontal and vertical, which were harmoniously counterbalanced in 17, become unbalanced again in 18, where a horizontal line generates contrast with the vertical arrangement of the plane. ´╗┐After the balance between the opposite directions that is reached in 17, in 18 the pressing external reality (the line) generates new opposition.

In 19 blue, yellow and red are juxtaposed but no longer interpenetrated as in 17. The juxtaposition evokes less compactness and solidity of the whole, unlike the interpenetration which instead fuses the three colors into a single, more stable structure (17). Note how on the right of 19 the yellow already tends to escape from the perimeter of the surface to flow into the yellow of the surrounding lines. Observing in sequence 17 - 18 - 19 we see how the synthesis of the three primary colors breaks up and yellow, red, blue open to the multiplicity of small squares scattered in a disorderly way along the lines (20). In this way the one flows back into the multiple.

Summing up the process observed up to this point as a single, uninterrupted sequence, we see the multiple become one and then the one become multiple again.
The space of the painting blossoms into a multitude of different entities that progressively become one and the same thing that then splits up and returns again to a multiple condition.

Broadway Boogie Woogie shows a process of growth, construction and constant transformation as all processes that are observed in nature and as in nature nothing remains more than that; each entity has no value in itself but acquires it in the relationship with the other parts; each point is unique and unrepeatable and at the same time part of a process that unites all things. A space in continuous dynamic equilibrium between tendency to disorder and tendency to order. A geometry that is in truth anything but rigid, cold or only rational as has often been said when speaking of Mondrian, a space that seems to me to be very much like life.

With a skilful use of shapes and colors, this kind of abstract art (not just any self-wheeled abstract image..) speaks to us about reality, contemplating it as one contemplates the immensity of a sea, with all its waves, each one different from the other but still made of the same water. Old painting still pursues reality in the fleeting appearance of a few waves while new painting contemplates the becoming of water.


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