In 1971, as a graduate student, I became an abstract painter after seeing the big Mondrian retrospective at the Guggenheim. What I learned from Mondrian was that abstraction is fundamental. In his Neoplastic style, all the means of painting are considered—tonal color, pure hue, lines as contours, flat shapes, modeled form, and so on; some are pursued, many others rejected. In that choice of conventions lies not only the basis of a style, but of painting itself. So for artists who come after Mondrian, it seems that there are many ways to work out of Mondrian, learn from Mondrian. This is why Mondrian is a great teacher of painting. He is a foundation upon which many sorts of painters have found that they can build.

The recent Burgoyne Diller retrospective at the Whitney brought back that coup de foudre I’d experienced almost twenty years ago on the ramps of the Guggenheim Museum.


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