Modern and Contemporary Art
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Artist: Piet Mondrian, Dutch, 1872–1944

Fox Trot A

1930

Oil on canvas

78.2 x 78.3 cm (30 13/16 x 30 13/16 in.) other (vertical axis): 110 cm(43 5/16 in.)
Gift of the artist for the Collection Société Anonyme
1942.355

Fox Trot A is an instance of Mondrian’s “lozenge” paintings, which the artist made by rotating a square canvas forty-five degrees. The artist first experimented with the diamond-shaped format in 1918 as a leading member of de Stijl. Founded in 1917 in Amsterdam, de Stijl was a movement of loosely-affiliated artists cohering around Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg that sought to create a purely abstract art composed of elemental forms and colors. It was also the name of an eponymous journal spearheaded by van Doesburg that published a number of texts central to the movement.

Though minimal in form and consisting only of black and white, Fox Trot A offers a sense of expansion. Because of Mondrian’s strategic composition, the black lines appear to be cropped in a manner that suggests their continuation in space. The painting’s angled upper edges create far more openness than a terminal, horizontal border would allow, seeming to leave the upwards thrust of the parallel vertical lines unconstrained. As such, Fox Trot A exemplifies the manner in which the lozenge freed Mondrian’s work from the stultifying effects of the grid and put painting in dialogue with the supporting wall by defamiliarizing the shape of the canvas. Yet this technique also ruptured the painting’s alignment with the orthogonality of its architectural environment.  Unlike van Doesburg, Mondrian did not think neo-plasticism should be extended to architecture and design.

The painting’s title reflects Mondrian’s deep interest in popular music and dance—new, jazz-inflected art forms that the artist saw as akin to his own formal interest in visual rhythm generated through the “continuous opposition of pure means”.

Culture: 
Dutch
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Paintings
Status: 
On view
Bibliography: 

Katherine S. Dreier, Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Modern Art Assembled by the Societe Anonyme, exh. cat. (New York: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1926).

Catalog of an International Exhibition Illustrating the Most Recent Development in Abstract Art, exh. cat. (Buffalo: Société Anonyme, 1931), 11, no. 48.

Collection of the Société Anonyme: Museum of Modern Art 1920 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1950), 65.

Mondrian, exh. cat. (The Hague: Gemeentemuseum, 1955), no. 120.

Frank Elgar, Mondrian, exh. cat. (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1968), 243, no. 407.

Nancy Troy, Mondrian and Neo-Plasticism in America, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1979), 47–48, no. 36.

Alan Shestack, ed., Yale University Art Gallery Selections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1983), 80–81, ill.

Robert L. Herbert, Eleanor S. Apter, and Elise K. Kenney, The Société Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University: A Catalogue Raisonné (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984), 484, no. 506, ill.

Ruth L. Bohan et al., The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, ed. Jennifer Gross, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006), 113, fig. 20.

Daniel Soutif et al., The Jazz Century: Art, Cinema, Music and Photography from Picasso to Basquait (Milan: Skira, 2009), ill.

Daniel Soutif, “Fox Trot et Boogie Woogie,” Télérama hors série: Piet Mondrian au centre pompidou (2010): 84, ill.

Ketevan Kintsurashvili, David Kakabadzé: Georgian Modern Artist and Inventor (New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2013), 134.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.

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