Work of first abstract painter now at NIU

By Chris Krapek

DeKALB | Painter, printmaker, poet, playwright, theorist.

Wassily Kandinsky: Klange (Sounds) is a new exhibit in the NIU Art Museum that explores the work of the Russian artist that changed art forever.

“Kandinsky was sort of the first artist to make abstract pictures back in the early part of the 20th century,” said Peter Olson, assistant director of the NIU Art Museum.

Hanging on the walls are a dozen of Kandinsky’s woodcuts that were created in 1911. There are simplistic titles like “Boat Ride,” “Apple Tree,” “All Saints” and “Three Riders in Red, Blue and Black,” but the abstract works are anything but. They’re vibrant, colorful, well-preserved and certainly open to philosophical interpretation.

Klange was originally a book published in 1912 that contains both prints and poems from Kandinsky. The poems evoke strong imagery that complements his woodcuts, Klange had a direct influence on expressionism, Dadaism and Russian futurism, according to an NIU Art Museum news release.

The exhibit, a part of the Visual Art and Sound series, is on loan to NIU from the Worthington Gallery of Chicago which specializes in German expressionism.

“We were really fortunate to be offered that show,” Olson said. “It’s very rare that you’re sitting around the museum and the phone rings and it’s an art collector or an art dealer that says they have this beautiful portfolio of prints and they want to lend it to you free of charge for an exhibit. That was sort of a no-brainer.”

Wassily Kandinsky: Klange (Sounds) is in the North Gallery of Altgeld Hall and runs until May 14.