Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Presents Geometry Exhibition

OCTOBER 07, 2011

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art presents Geometry and Experimentation: European Art of the 1960s and 1970s October 7, 2011 through February 27, 2012. The exhibition looks at the integrated effects of color, pattern and geometry examined by European artists whose work reveals a variety of approaches in different media: painting, drawing, sculpture and prints.

The show includes works by major figures such as Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley but also deepens the viewers understanding of artists not well known in the United States such as Max Bill, Gianfredo Camesi, Richard Lohse and Julio Le Parc. Twenty-seven artists are represented by 58 works. The results are surprising in formal complexity, intellectual rigor, meditative beauty and occasional humor.

All works in the exhibition are from the Bechtler collection and most have not been exhibited in an institutional setting, though works by most of these artists are found in museums throughout Europe and the United States.

The theme of geometry is used in this exhibition as an opportunity to share the works of artists in the Bechtler collection who represent different backgrounds, nationalities, ages and outlooks and who during a window of about 10 years selected geometric forms and patterns as their principal means of intellectual and aesthetic exploration. For some, such as Max Bill, a close friend of the Bechtler family for many years, geometry was a link essential to his remarkable system of thinking as expressed in his sculpture, painting, graphic art, industrial designs and architecture. 

The objects were selected based on the artists’ appetite for exploring geometry, line and color. Some experimented with the formal qualities of geometric shapes. For others, the inquiry was much deeper and linked to a variety of intellectual investigations.

All works in the exhibition represent geometry in one way or another, yet the viewer will find an extraordinary and often profound range, which underscores the uniqueness of the artistic vision that, even when a group of artists within a single generation experiment in a similar aesthetic frame of reference the diversity of results can be breathtaking and inspiring.  

Two minor themes within the show—light and motion—tie into the rubric of geometry. Some of the artists explored the relationship between geometrical art and light, whether natural light, in the way it’s captured by the pieces or electric light, which emerges from the inside of the piece and animates it. In the same way, there is an exploration of motion and the suggestions of motion resulting from the relationship between line, form and color.

A unique offering in the show is a collection of prints from the 1970 publication Recherche, expérimentation. Each artist worked at the same moment for the same portfolio, the majority of them united by their interest in geometry. The mixture resulted in a variety of perspectives and approaches from the most subtle and elemental uses of line and geometrical form, to others that are complex and dense and almost impenetrable.

Exhibition-related Programming

Modern Mondays Series (October 10). Using Geometry and Experimentation: European Art of the 1960s and 1970s as a reference, Bechtler President and CEO John Boyer will exchange ideas about how contour, shading, color and shape go beyond simple descriptive interpretation. Modern Mondays programs enhance the museum experience by providing interaction between visitors and curators, scholars and other professionals who interpret works in the Bechtler collection and exhibitions. Each event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a cash bar. The programs are free with museum admission. Purchase tickets online at, by phone 704.353.9200 or at the visitor services desk.

Music and Museum Series (October 23). The chamber music concert features compositions by Gabriel Fauré, Libby Larsen, Arvo Pärt and Alexander Scriabin performed by The Bechtler Ensemble. Selected pieces from the Geometry and Experimentation: European Art of the 1960s and 1970s exhibition will be on view during the concert, and commentary will connect the aesthetics and artistic principles that drove the music and the art. Reception is at 5 p.m.; performance at 5:30. Tickets are $15 for museum members, $20 for non-members. Purchase tickets online at, by phone 704.353.9200 or at the visitor services desk.

Family Day (November 12). Kids of all ages can experiment with methods and materials addressed in the exhibition Geometry and Experimentation: European Art of the 1960s and 1970s. Activities will be held in the museum classroom noon to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free for those under 18 years old; all others receive a discounted ticket price of $4.



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