Tag Archives: Space

FROM THE VAULT | Paul Klee on Modern Art

paul-klee-modern-artFROM THE VAULT |  Paul Klee on Modern Art
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

Paul Klee on Modern Art (with Introduction by Herbert Read) is the text of a lecture delivered in 1924 at the opening of a museum exhibit of modern art (thus it reads in the first person). It is a series of brief commentaries on the Modernist creative process. Herbert Read’s brief but excellent introduction is an enlightening, concise summary of Klee’s intent in the lecture as well as the difficulties some readers might encounter while reading the text. Because Klee focuses on the creative process, he looks inward rather than outward (as he did in Creative Confessions), which gives the text a bit of an ego-centric viewpoint. In this sense, Modern Art is really about the artist in the world (in this case, Klee himself). Klee’s explicit reservations about speaking about his art also tends to make Modern Art feel somewhat defensive.

Because of this, Modern Art is not as rich with interesting observations, concepts and quotes that might find a common expression in architecture or urban planning (except perhaps its worst excesses, i.e. the architectural genius). Indeed, some of Klee’s text seems to pull back on his thoughts in Creative Confessions. For example, he states “line is the most limited”, which seems to contradict the ‘inherent energy’ he discussed in the other work. Instead, he shifts his focus to tone and color as an unmeasurable ‘quality’ in art, with explicit references to ‘mood’ in the artist and the emotions provoke in the character of a piece of art. In this sense, Modern Art represents a counter (and lesser) movement to Creative Confessions, of more limited application outside the realm of the artistic compulsion itself where there is “more value on the powers (i.e. the artist) which do the forming than the final forms themselves” residing “in the womb of nature” where the artist literally becomes a God himself in a creative act of genesis.

Paul Klee on Modern Art
by Paul Klee (with Introduction by Herbert Read)
55 pages
Faber and Faber Ltd. London. Paper Covered Editions (1967)

You can purchase Paul Klee on Modern Art from Amazon here.

Check out the Artsy.net Paul Klee page here.

From the Vault is a series from the Outlaw Urbanist in which we review art, architectural and urban design texts, with an emphasis on the obscure and forgotten, found in second-hand bookstores.

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FROM THE VAULT | Creative Confessions and other writings | Paul Klee

creative-confessionsFROM THE VAULT | Creative Confessions and other writings by Paul Klee
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

Creative Confessions is a series of short essays (vignettes, really) by Modern abstract artist Paul Klee (1879-1940) on art and composition, which the artist wrote while teaching at the Bauhaus in Germany during the 1920s with a postscript essay by the editor, Matthew Gale. In this, it is a thought-provoking read that can be managed in a single sitting (in a real sense: perfect for the Internet Era). It is stuffed full with quotes that have direct bearing on composition in art (“art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible”). However, Klee’s vignettes also carry (perhaps indirect) importance for composition in architecture and urban planning. For example, “a tendency towards the abstract is inherent in linear expression” when you think of this concept in terms of movement in the city. When Klee discusses “the formal elements of graphic art are the dot, line, plane, and space – the last three charged with energy of various kind”, we can easily translate this into built environment terms (dot=location, line=axis of movement, plane=convex space, and space itself is self-explanatory). Klee means this in terms of the energy of artistic gesture but we can also easily understand how these things in an urban environment are similarly ‘charged with energy’ in terms of movement, avoidance, and encounter.

Indeed, it is easy to make transitions such as these from art to architecture/planning since Klee himself tends to express these ideas in terms of movement/counter movement in encounter and vision, i.e. a journey across “an unploughed field” or crossing a “river” or “walking across the deck of a steamer”, which are described in terms of linear expression. Klee’s explicitly acknowledges this, arguing that “movement is the source of all change” and “space, too, is a temporal concept.” “When a dot begins to move and becomes a line, this require time.” In planning terms, we can think of this as our location in space changing by the action of our movement and thus our experience of space evolves with that movement. This is not only expressed in terms of geospatial reality but also in time since we, as human beings, are bound in space and time.

“Movement is the basic datum” of the universe, Klee tells us. In understanding this (in art as well as the science of urbanism), we can “reveal the reality that is behind visible things”.  Klee argues “the object grows beyond its appearance through our knowledge that the thing is more than its outward aspect suggests”. Indeed, in discussing art, is Klee begins to tap into the inherent nature of observation and science itself.

Creative Confessions and other writings
by Paul Klee (Matthew Gale, Editor and Postscript)
32 pages
Tate; Act edition (May 6, 2014), London UK

You can purchase Creative Confessions and other writings from Amazon here.

Check out the Artsy.net Paul Klee page here.

From the Vault is a series from the Outlaw Urbanist in which we review art, architectural and urban design texts, with an emphasis on the obscure and forgotten, found in second-hand bookstores.

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Seven Deadly Sins for Cities | Part 7

7.  Hyper-Segregation

Hyper, prefix, meaning high-strung (very nervous or easily upset), excitable, highly excited or extremely active; over, beyond, above, or exceeding the normal. Segregation, noun, meaning the act or practice of segregating; a setting apart or separation of places, people or things – either enforced or voluntary – from others or from the main body or group of places, people or things, by barriers to social intercourse; the separation for special treatment or observation of individuals or items from another group: the institutional separation of an ethnic, racial, religious, or other minority group from the dominant majority; the state or condition of being segregated, set apart, separated, or restricted to one group. Origin of hyper is short for hyperactive (First Known Use: circa 1942) from Greek huper ‘over, beyond.’ Origin of segregation is 1545-55 from the Late Latin sēgregātiōn– (stem of sēgregātiō), equivalent to sēgregāt (us) (see segregate) + –iōn– –ion. Synonyms include extreme loneliness and excessive isolation to the point of being unhealthy for individuals or society.

Seven Deadly Sins for Cities is a feature of The Outlaw Urbanist. Starting soon: Seven Godly Virtues for Cities.

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Seven Deadly Sins for Cities | Part 6

6.  Parsimony

More than an extreme or excessive economy or frugality, extreme unwillingness to spend money or use resources, the quality of being very unwilling to spend money/being careful with money or resources, or a thrift in the quality or state of being stingy – economy in the use of means to an end – for not only creating things but in thinking about things. In cities, this most often refers to an excess of quantity in the short-term as an unfair exchange for a cheapness of quality in things or ideas over the long-term. For example, a cheap idea efficiently implemented in the short term is often inevitably more expensive than a good idea carefully crafted and implemented over the long term. Synonyms include: miserliness, niggardliness, penny-pinching, or tightfistedness; see also FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition) or clusterfuck. (1400-50; late Middle English parcimony < Latin parsimōnia, parcimōnia frugality, thrift, equivalent to parsi– combining form of parsus, past participle of parcere to economize or parci– combining form of parcus sparing + –mōniamony suffix signifying action, state, or condition).

Seven Deadly Sins for Cities is a new feature of The Outlaw Urbanist.

PoorRichardv2_FrCoverPurchase your copy of Poor Richard, Another Almanac for Architects and Planners (Volume 2) today!

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Seven Deadly Sins for Cities | Part 5

5.  Velocity

A quickness or speed of motion, action, or operation; rapidity or swiftness: speed or the rapidity of movement; speed imparted to something; a measure of the rate of motion of a body expressed as the rate of change of its position in a particular direction with time. It is measured in metres per second, miles per hour, etc: the derivative of position with respect to time; a rate of occurrence or action, the rate of speed with which something happens; rapidity of action or reaction;   the rate of turnover (Middle French velocité, from Latin velocitat-, velocitas, from veloc-, velox quick or swift; probably akin to Latin vegēre to enliven – more at wake; related to volāre to fly. See velocipede, -ty: First Known Use: 15th century).

Seven Deadly Sins for Cities is a new feature of The Outlaw Urbanist.

PoorRichardv2_FrCoverPurchase your copy of Poor Richard, Another Almanac for Architects and Planners (Volume 2) today!

Available in print from Amazon, CreateSpace, and other online retailers.

Available on iBooks from the Apple iTunes Store.

Available on Kindle in the Kindle Store.

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