The Washington Post

Phillips stacks the abstract deck with Kandinsky and Stella

The Phillips Collection is opening its summer season with solo shows by two celebrated modernists: Wassily Kandinsky and Frank Stella.

For Washington museum-goers, it has been quite a while since both artists had individual shows at the city’s major museums. Kandinsky, the Russian-born avant garde artist, had an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in 1981. His work was the centerpiece of a show at the Phillips in 1992. His retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2009-2010 was enormously popular.

Stella, a principal innovator in painting and sculpture since the 1960s and the recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 2010, had a solo exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1979. The Phillips mounted one in 1973. The city has a massive Stella outside the National Gallery’s East Building, now partially obstructed because of the facade repairs.

The Phillips’ shows are designed to create a dialogue between the Kandinsky abstracts created a century ago and Stella’s new sculptures.

“Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border,” will showcase 20 works. “Painting with White Border,” considered his masterpiece, will be paired with the artist’s preparatory studies done in ink, oil, watercolor and pencil. The works have been studied by conservators from the Phillips and the Guggenheim, the co-organizer of the exhibition, using the newest techniques. They discovered a painting by Gabriele Munter underneath Kandinsky’s “Sketch 1 for Painting with White Border.”

“Stella Sounds: The Scarlatti K Series,” is three dimensional work inspired by the 18th century composer Domenico Scarlatti’s harpsichord sonatas. The exhibition, organized by the Phillips, contains eight sculptures from the K series. The multicolored constructions range from two-feet to 15 feet tall.

The two exhibitions open June 11 and will be on view through September 4.


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