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On View Now: Dimensionism, Modern Art Under the Influence of 20th-Century Science

  • Barbara Hepworth - Project for Wood and Strings
September 4, 2019
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

The first four decades of the 20th century were saturated with the erection of various art movements based on radicalism and experimentation, appropriation of new media, as well as the artists’ mutual interaction expressed through the creation of groups and collectives. While the leading movements such as Futurism or Surrealism were and still are explored massively, others such as Dimensionism remained on the margin.

That is why the current and first-of-its-kind touring exhibition Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein at The Zimmerli Art Museum is so important; it thoroughly examines a movement influenced by the startling scientific discoveries that challenged and utterly changed human understanding of the universe.

Isamu Noguchi - Yellow Landscape
Isamu Noguchi – Yellow Landscape, 1943 (partially reconstructed, 1995). The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York © 2018 The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Dimensionist Visions

The curator Vanja Malloy (formerly Curator of American Art at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College and now Director and Chief Curator of Syracuse University Art Galleries) started analyzing Dimensionism by carefully reading the Dimensionist Manifesto written in 1936 by Hungarian poet Charles Sirató.

Therefore, the exhibition includes around seventy five artworks by more than thirty six artists, including the ones who signed the Manifesto: Marcel Duchamp, Sonia Delaunay-Terk, Alexander Calder, László Moholy-Nagy, etc., made in between mid-1930s to early 1940s in both Europe and the United States, with several early works from 1915 and late ones from 1966.

The production of Dimenisionists was largely influenced by Einstein’s iconic book General Theory of Relativity, first published in 1915, the 1919 solar eclipse which enabled Einstein and his colleagues to observe and measure the “bending” of light around the sun, as well as various scientific instruments.

Left Sonia Delauney - Disque Right Anton Prinner - Colonne
Left: Sonia Delaunay – Disque, 1915. Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts. Gift of Thomas P. Whitney (Class of 1937) / Right: Anton Prinner – Colonne, 1932. Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts. Purchased with Charles H. Morgan Fine Arts Fund

The Works

Paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, as well as poetry and ephemera associated with the Dimensionist movement, are displayed. The majority of the works are loaned, except the ones by Jean Arp, Peter Busa, Robert Delauney, Adeline Kent, Gerome Kamrowski and Man Ray (selected by Donna Gustafson, the museum’s Curator of American Art and Mellon Director for Academic Programs), as well as a copy of the visual poem Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France produced in 1913 by Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay.

The selection of works by Manifesto’s author Charles Sirató are of special relevance, highlighting his background in the context of the Hungarian avant-garde, and his development as a theorist and a poet.

Isamu Noguchi - E = MC2
Isamu Noguchi – E = MC2, 1944. The Isamu Noguchi – Foundation and Garden Museum, New York © 2018. The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Dimensionism at Zimmerli

This exhibition shows how new conceptions of time and space brought by the progressing scientific contributions inspired the emerging avant-garde movement to focus on the issue of dimensionality; furthermore, it explores it through a prism of the interconnection of art and science which seems to be especially intriguing in the digital era when the two disciplines are often entwined.

A series of free public programs, as well an illustrated catalog edited by Vanja Malloy with contributions of few distinct scholars will contribute to a better understanding of this particular art phenomena.

Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein will be on display at The Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick, New Jersey until 5 January 2020.

Featured images: Barbara Hepworth – Project for Wood and Strings, Trezion II, 1959. Oil, gesso, pencil on board. Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts; Gift of Richard S. Zeisler (Class of 1937) (1960.1) © Bowness; Helen Lundeberg – Self Portrait, 1944. Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University. Gift of The Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg Feitelson Arts Foundation © The Feitelson / Lundeberg Art Foundation. Photo: Peter Jacobs. All images courtesy The Zimmerli Art Museum.