Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future

The exhibition is the first major retrospective in the USA of Hilma af Klint, a little known Swedish painter, modernist pioneer and spiritualist.

Michele Safra. 14/12/2018

Should you want to immerse yourself through a spiritual, hallucinating, artistic voyage do not miss the exhibition “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future”, now on view at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City through April 23, 2019. Hillma af Klint, born in 1862, was definitely ahead of her time, so much so that she did not think the public was ready for her art. She thus stipulated that her work should not be shown for twenty years after her death.

Ultimately, it is only in 1986, 42 years after her death, that her art was displayed publicly. Klint studied painting at the Royal Academy of Arts graduating with honors in 1887. She quickly established herself as a respected artist exhibiting figurative paintings. At the same time, she became deeply engaged in Spiritualism, Rosicrucianism and Theosophy.

Left: Group X, No. 1, Altarpiece (Grupp X, nr 1, Altarbild), 1915 from Altarpieces (Altarbilder). Right:  Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 7, Adulthood (Grupp IV, De tio största, nr 7, Mannaåldern), 1907 from untitled series. *Photos: Albin Dahlström, the Moderna Museet, Stockholm

She began to develop a new approach of art linked with her spiritual practice outside the man-dominated art world of that time. In 1896, she joined a group of four other ladies holding regular spiritual seances. During one of these meetings, one of the spirits that the group channeled asked her to create a cycle of paintings. Klint readily accepted and between 1906 and 1915 she completed 193 paintings and works on paper, collectively called The Paintings for the Temple.

That was the beginning of Klint’s creation of bold, colorful, radically abstract paintings with no references to the physical world. This was years before Vasily Kandinsky, Kasimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian and others would take similar approaches to free their art from representational content.

Installation view: Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 12, 2018–April 23, 2019. Photo: David Heald. © 2018 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

The exhibition at the Guggenheim, opens with 10 large paintings, collectively titled The Ten Largest. From lavenders, to burnt oranges, to pale pinks, the large-scale paintings (10 feet by nearly 9 feet) depicting meaningless words and colorful abstract big circles and spheres, transport you in a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings.

Who would have imagined that these paintings are more than 100 years old?

Principal photo: Group I, Primordial Chaos, No. 16 (Grupp 1, Urkaos, nr 16), 1906-1907 from The WU/Rose Series (Serie WU/Rosen). Photos: Albin Dahlström, the Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

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