Unless you went to art school, chances are good that you don’t know who Piet Mondrian was. He was born in the 1870s and contributed to a European form of proto-cubism that is known De Stijl. The only contemporary iteration of this term that I can think of is the The White Stripes album of the same name, with cover art that mimics Mondrian’s style.
I was introduced to this artist as a child. My elementary school art teacher, Mr. Clinton, showed us all kinds of art from various periods, and brilliantly made projects for us built around these influential artists.
There are people who look at the works of Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, and even the later works of Pablo Picasso, and think to themselves “What’s so damn special about that? Even I could do that. My kids could do that!” I had a similar attitude, especially about Piet Mondrian. Right angles, always primary colors, blocks of paint. To this day, I still don’t understand what his motivation might have been, but I have begun to understand what a personal artistic compulsion is. I find myself gravitating toward subject matter that many of my viewers find utterly boring, banal, and insignificant, but I can’t stop myself from making these images. Art is deeply personal to the creator, and only personal to a select few of their audience – and there’s no way of predicting what colors, compositions, or themes are going to resonate with the audience.
I’m still not a huge fan of Piet Mondrian, but I don’t disregard his work as amateur, pedestrian, or boring – not anymore. He was a driven artist, and influenced a generation of artists that followed, even if his influence was a subtle and often overlooked one.