Friday, November 9, 2018

Hilma af Klint, "The Paintings for the Temple" at the Guggenheim

This temple series is about as welcoming a show as any I've experienced. A palette of pastel pinks, chalky oranges, and easter egg violets envelop the viewer through larger than life canvases that practically wall paper the second floor of the Guggenheim. These large blocks of color contain images that seem a cross between botanical and scientific charts, filled in with curlicues and calligraphic flourishes. Her sizable body of work continues to spiral upward with multiple floors of sumptuous patterned paintings.

Yes, the paintings are teeming with references to the spirit world, represented by the visual spirals of life and death. Yes, Hilma Af Klint declares herself a medium and so not the true author of the work. Yet, whether one is spiritual or atheistic ought not to cloud the experience of being bathed in these giant lyrical pieces. (And if you happen to be a theologist, as she was, or on the path to spiritual enlightenment, all the more to decode and enjoy.)

One of the most striking works is composed of two swans, spiraling in from opposite diagonals of the painting, meeting in a center horizon line. The geometric balance of organic forms cleverly repeated through opposite colors precedes Escher drawings. The imagery in the painting represents life and death; the world we live in and the underworld, separated by a horizontal line or a veil that splits the composition of the drawing. The Guggenheim is a wonderfully appropriate stage for her work, especially when noting that Frank Lloyd Wright's wide curving space reference the golden spiral, a common theme of her paintings. As the Guggenheim has suggested, perhaps the museum and show combined have transformed into the "Temple of the future" that she intended the work for.


  1. Your review of the Hilma af Klint show is a pleasure to read! From reading your description of her paintings I can tell how much you enjoyed seeing these impressive artworks! I really appreciate your detailed description of her work. I can clearly see everything in front of my eyes while reading your review. Escher’s drawings also immediately came to my mind while looking at the swan painting. While your interpretation of this painting is wonderful to read, I wish you would add another sentence at the end to conclude your visit to the show and make the whole piece feel more complete.

  2. I like the way how you wrote about your feelings and thoughts of the show. Your review is pretty clear and organized well. You successfully communicate with us the main idea and spirit of the show and also indicate some specific parts you found more interested in. I love how your describe the show as a decorated children’s classroom, I do have the same feeling when I was in the show. The way how you organize your sentences and talk about one specific piece of artwork really brings me into understanding the show in a deeper extent. In addition, I wish you could summarize your main concept more clearly and straightforward in the last sentences of the review.