Belgian artist Georges Vantongerloo was a founding member of the De Stijl group and the Abstraction-Création association, working across sculpture, painting, architecture, and design. Guided by mathematic and geometric principles, Vantongerloo sought to apply these to the aesthetic intention of art in order to rationalise the natural world.Read More
Vantongerloo studied at the Academies of Fine Arts in Antwerp and Brussels in the early 1900s. He was conscripted into World War I, but was discharged following injury in 1914, and fled to the Netherlands as a refugee in the same year.
In the Netherlands, Vantongerloo developed architectural designs and collaborated on the magazine De Stijl (1917) with Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, and Bart van der Leck. Vantongerloo became a co-signor of the De Stijl manifesto in 1918.
Governed by strict limitations of horizontal and vertical planes, De Stijl's deployment of geometry in modern art shaped developments in 20th-century design and architecture as well as art, and saw comparisons with Geometric Abstraction, Constructivism, and Neo-plasticism. The De Stijl group included an evolving group of artists and designers, including Mondrian, van Doesburg, and van der Leck, as well as Vilmos Huszár, Gerrit Rietveld, J.J.P. Oud, and Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart.
In 1918, Vantongerloo returned from the Netherlands to Brussels, and soon after moved to Menton in southeast France. There he met Swiss artist and architect Max Bill, with whom Vantongerloo developed ideas around 20th-century abstraction in a lifelong collaboration.
Vantongerloo's short text L'Art et son avenir (Art and its Future) was published in Antwerp in 1924. In 1928, Vantongerloo moved to Paris. In 1931, he became a founding member of Abstraction-Création, an artists' association formed in response to the rising influence of Surrealism led by André Breton.
Georges Vantongerloo's paintings and sculptures are characterised by their multiplicity of perpendicular forms—with horizontal and vertical planes intersecting in pictorial or physical space. He often worked on meticulous diagrams and preparatory sketches to direct his compositions and designs, and volume and proportion were frequently dictated by a mathematical formula. Through these parameters and geometric regulations, Vantongerloo attempted to achieve balance, unity, and order.
Preceding the artist's commitment to De Stijl was Construction within a Sphere (1917), an amorphous silvered plaster obejct that reflects Vantongerloo's early interest in shape and form.
Later sculptures such as Interrelation of Volumes (1919), Construction of Volume Relations (1921), and Construction of Volumetric Interrelationships Derived from the Inscribed Square and the Square Circumscribed by a Circle (1924) each translated the geometric principles of De Stijl into volumetric rectangular prisms, which interlock to create spatial protrusions and cavities. Vantongerloo's use of materials such as sandstone, mahogany, and cast cement embody the advancement of modernism and industrialism of the period.
Vantongerloo's paintings and drawings similarly executed De Stijl's principles through line and a restricted use of colour. XY = K Green and Red (1929) and No. 98 2478 Red/135 Green (1936) exemplify the mathematical formalism that dictated Vantongerloo's compositions, with the pictorial space precisely demarcated to bring logic and order to abstraction.
Vantongerloo additionally produced designs for buildings, bridges, and other public infrastructure. The maquette Villa (1926) presents a design for a dwelling formed entirely from horizontal and vertical planes, with a minimal simplicity that defined modernist architecture. In 1930, Vantongerloo's design for bridges and an airport were presented at the at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Following Vantongerloo's death in 1965, Dr Angela Thomas Schmid, Max Bill's widow, established the Max Bill Georges Vantongerloo Stiftung to represent the estates of the two artists. Since 2019, Georges Vantongerloo's estate has been represented by Hauser & Wirth.
Vantongerloo presented in solo and group exhibitions internationally during his lifetime. He was included in the group exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art (1936) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and in 1943 he presented his first major solo exhibition at Galerie de Berri in Paris. Further solo exhibitions were shown at Galerie Suzanne Bollag, Zurich (1961, 1966); Marlborough Fine Art, London (1962); Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires (1965); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1980); Dallas Museum of Art (1980); Kunsthaus Zurich (1981); and Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop (1986); among others.
Since his death, Vantongerloo's practice has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions and retrospectives throughout Europe, the U.K., the U.S.A., and South America.
Misong Kim | Ocula | 2022