An Interactive Social Network of Abstract Artists: Kandinsky, Picasso, Brancusi & Many More

Who’s your favorite abstract artist? Some of us, if we like ear­ly abstrac­tion, might name a painter like Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky, some a com­pos­er like Arnold Schoen­berg, some a poet like Guil­laume Apol­li­naire, and some, even, a pho­tog­ra­ph­er like Alfred Stieglitz. When we answer a ques­tion like this, we tend to con­sid­er each artist, and each artist’s body of work, in iso­la­tion. But when we talk about artis­tic move­ments, espe­cial­ly one over­ar­ch­ing and influ­en­tial as abstrac­tion, all names, all paint­ings, all com­po­si­tions, all poems, all pho­tographs — all works of any kind — are inter­con­nect­ed. Just as abstract artists man­aged to make vis­i­ble, audi­ble, and leg­i­ble con­cepts and feel­ings nev­er before real­ized in art, the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art’s inter­ac­tive social-net­work map of abstract art puts all those con­nec­tions on dis­play for us to see.

“Abstrac­tion may be mod­ernism’s great­est inno­va­tion,” says the web site of Invent­ing Abstrac­tion 1910–1925, the MoMA exhib­it for which the map (down­load­able as a PDF poster here) was orig­i­nal­ly designed. “Today it is so cen­tral to our con­cep­tion of art­mak­ing that the time when an abstract art­work was unimag­in­able has become hard to imag­ine.”

But when abstract art emerged, it seemed to do so quite sud­den­ly: begin­ning in 1911, Kandin­sky and oth­er artists, includ­ing Fer­nand Léger, Robert Delau­nay, Fran­tišek Kup­ka, and Fran­cis Picabia, “exhib­it­ed works that marked the begin­ning of some­thing rad­i­cal­ly new: they dis­pensed with rec­og­niz­able sub­ject mat­ter.” You can view the Invent­ing Abstrac­tion dia­gram with Léger at the cen­ter, which reveals his con­nec­tions to such fig­ures as Man Ray, Mar­cel Duchamp, and Pablo Picas­so. Recon­fig­ured with Delau­nay at the cen­ter, links emerge to the likes of Blaise Cen­drars, Edgard Varèse, and Paul Klee.

But no abstract artist seems to have been as well-con­nect­ed as Kandin­sky, who “became a cen­tral force in the devel­op­ment and pro­mo­tion of abstrac­tion through his intre­pid efforts as a painter, the­o­rist, pub­lish­er, exhi­bi­tion orga­niz­er, teacher, and as a gen­er­ous host to the dozens of artists and writ­ers who trekked, often from great dis­tances, to meet him.” So says the bio along­side Kandin­sky’s page on the dia­gram, which depicts him as the node con­nect­ing fig­ures, influ­en­tial in their own right, like Josef Albers, Lás­zló Moholy-Nagy, and Hans Richter. Kandin­sky’s “mes­sage about abstrac­tion’s poten­tial tran­scend­ed dis­tinc­tions between medi­ums, and his impact was felt from New York to Moscow.” But only a com­mu­ni­ty of artists span­ning at least that range of the globe, each in his or her own way look­ing to cre­ate a new world, could bring abstract art into being. More than a cen­tu­ry lat­er, we can safe­ly call it here to stay.

Enter the social net­work of abstract artists here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Steve Mar­tin on How to Look at Abstract Art

How to Paint Like Kandin­sky, Picas­so, Warhol & More: A Video Series from the Tate

Who Paint­ed the First Abstract Paint­ing?: Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky? Hilma af Klint? Or Anoth­er Con­tender?

The First Mas­ter­pieces of Abstract Film: Hans Richter’s Rhyth­mus 21 (1921) & Viking Eggeling’s Sym­phonie Diag­o­nale (1924)

A Quick Six Minute Jour­ney Through Mod­ern Art: How You Get from Manet’s 1862 Paint­ing, “The Lun­cheon on the Grass,” to Jack­son Pol­lock 1950s Drip Paint­ings

How the CIA Secret­ly Fund­ed Abstract Expres­sion­ism Dur­ing the Cold War

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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