Lebt Theo? Gesellschaft für Kunst und Gestaltung, Bonn, Germany

Work by Krijn de Koning
Installation view

Theo van Doesburg was not only the incarnation of de Stijl, he was inspiring and moving
power to the international avant-garde being artist, theorist, organizer, editor and teacher.
First in the anarchic-subversive language of DADA, later in the rational serenity of the
constructive-concrete movement, he made art and life approach; he agitated the Bauhaus in
Weimar and influenced it persistently.
In 1924 he first applied his theories to his own work. After having founded the group ‘art
concret’ in Paris in 1929, he published the basics of concrete art in his manifesto of 1930,
describing them in six items:
As global art, being completely intellectually created and designed before execution, hence
being rational; having no given natural, sensual or emotional form, nothing lyric, dramatic or
symbolic, but being constructed from mere pictorial elements, meaning only oneself, simple
and visually controllable, precisely produced and of absolute distinctness.
Already in 1930 van Doesburg – who had often been criticized for his dogmatism,
simultaneously living and praising dynamics and change – had to admit that the period of
rigid manifests had passed by. In February 1931 the group `abstraction – création’ was
founded in his house in Meudon, only three weeks before he died on March 7th, 1931.
The gkg -by this exhibition- profits of the occasion of the 80-year-jubilee of his manifesto to
look into the question whether the work of this ‘Father of Concrete Art’ is still of topical
interest and effect in the Netherlands. For choosing the participants the first criteria was their
going into van Doesburg’s idea of concrete art as a global one. Furthermore the question is
raised what has remained – almost 80 years after his death – of the ideas having been
initiated, demanded and persued by this personality full of versatility and contradiction ? (he
initiated, demanded and pursued, this personality full of versatility and contradiction.)
The exhibited works of nine artists, aged between 85 and 40 disclose the manifold interest in
van Doesburg and thus his influence. This is pronounced either as more or less direct
reference, the arguing about or as a reflected opposition to ‘de Stijl’. These works are based
on questioning the conditions of art and its degree of reality, about colour and light, space
and time, statistics and dynamics.
Theo van Doesburg and congenial artists already realized that these questions were of
central interest. Still today – and probably further on – artists profit of the geometrical, basic
forms and their endless possibilities, whether precise or playful, systematic or intuitive,
conceptual or self reflecting, or even with dadaistic reference to common life.

The narrow concept of concrete art, being based on geometrical rules and systems, is
rejected by many of the younger generation. But it is still of undejected vitality, declarative
power and relevance as an expression of a non-objective sphere of ideas, concepts and
Referring to the opposing poles in van Doesburg’s ideas are two artists of the elder
Henk Peeters (*1925), co-founder of the group ‘nul’, traces out the dadaistic, subversive
moment with inclination and humour. Bob Bonies *(1937) on the other hand rests on ‘de Stijl’
in its rational repertoire, reduced to geometrical basic forms.
In between a wide range of manifold points of contact fans out. Evident relation to ‘de Stijl’ is
shown in the works of, Arjan Janssen (*1959), Krijn de Koning (*1963) and Guido Winkler
(*1969). But they concentrate on a more playful, sentient dealing with objects, space, his
basic elements and colours, less on the serial variation of the perfect geometrical form. WJM
Kok (*1959) questions the conditions of painting and its perception, thus pushing the
concretion of painting to its extreme end.
Gracia Khouw (*1967) works with free typological use of language and characters, while Piet
Tuytel (*1956) combines commodity, precise forms and series with a dadaistic twinkling.
José Heerkens (*1950) has developed from abstraction to concretion, her rhythmical colourlines
are reminding of notations.

At least there’s one important aspect to be mentioned: All artists are internationally orientated
and linked, like van Doesburg, their antecedent.