CURATOR: MAJA WISMER WITH MARTIN BRAUEN
After 1950, the artist Charmion von Wiegand (1896–1983), who spent much of her life in New York City, created widely acclaimed paintings and collages that fused the Western tradition of geometric art with a spiritual aesthetic primarily molded by Far Eastern sources of inspiration. A relative newcomer to the practice of abstract painting, she had long been intimately familiar with the New York scene: as an active member of the literary circles of the 1920s and reporter from the Soviet Moscow of the 1930s, she had made a name for herself as an art critic. It was in this function that she contacted Piet Mondrian shortly after his arrival in the United States. She subsequently became an avid student of Mondrian’s theory of “neoplasticism.” His reflections sparked her own engagement with abstraction.
Charmion von Wiegand. Coloring Modernism is the first institutional exhibition of her work since 1982. Designed to introduce European audiences to an artist who has remained virtually unknown on the continent, it includes paintings and collages from all phases of her career. What makes her oeuvre fascinating is the diversity of her artistic and intellectual interests. The show accordingly expands the curatorial focus beyond von Wiegand’s works, sketching her position as an extraordinarily liberal-minded intellectual by showcasing writings and documents as well as exemplary works by her contemporaries. A presentation of selected historic works of Buddhist art illustrates her openness to non-Western cultural influences. Von Wiegand studied Tibetan Buddhist artifacts with the same zeal with which she immersed herself in the paintings and collages of, say, Wassily Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Kurt Schwitters. The references presented side by side with her works shed light on her political stances and the cast of her mind as well as her work as a critic and curator.