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Guggenheim Presents First Hilma af Klint Solo Exhibition in United States

Hilma af Klint

Hilma af Klint (1862 to 1944) was a pioneer of abstract art. Her works aimed to visualize the spiritual. (Photo: Moderna Museet)

Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) began her career with conventional studies at Tekniska Slolan and the Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm, but she’s best known for her distinctive abstract paintings, inspired by her deep interest in the occult and the spiritual world.

Her radical abstract art will go on display at the the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City in the fall, marking the first solo exhibition in the United States, the museum announced.

Hilma af Klint abstract work. (Photo: Moderna Museet)

af Klint was noted for her “bold, colorful paintings that were untethered from recognizable references to the physical world. She was years ahead of other abstract artists like Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian.

“Yet af Klint never exhibited her remarkably forward-looking paintings, convinced the world was not ready for them. She stipulated that they not be shown for 20 years following her death,” the museum noted.

“Ultimately, her work was not exhibited until 1986, and it is only over the past three decades that her paintings and works on paper have received serious attention.”

The Guggenheim exhibit, titled “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future” will offer an opportunity to experience af Klint’s artistic achievements in the Guggenheim rotunda more than a century after she began her work.

Curated by Tracey Bashkoff, Director of Collections and Senior Curator, with the assistance of David Horowitz, Curatorial Assistant, the exhibition will feature more than 160 of af Klint’s artworks, focusing on the artist’s breakthrough years, 1906–20. The exhibit is organized with the cooperation of the Hilma af Klint Foundation in Stockholm.

It is during this period that she began to produce nonobjective and stunningly imaginative paintings, creating a singular body of work that invites a reevaluation of modernism and its development,” the museum states. .

af Klint graduated from the Royal Academy with honors in 1887 and became well known in artistic circles for her figurative paintings. She served briefly as secretary of the Society for Swedish Women Artists.

She developed an interest in spiritualism, Rosicrucianism, and Theosophy in the 1870s during a period when the world was being swept by advances in science and technology. af Klint and other artists tried to reconcile long-held religious beliefs with these advances.

She began holding regular séances with four other women by 1896 and formed a group known as “De Fem,” translated “The Five.”

Stylistically, her works from that period are strikingly diverse, utilizing biomorphic and geometric forms, expansive and intimate scales, and maximalist and reductivist approaches to composition and color.

She imagined installing them in a spiral temple, but the building never came to fruition. After she completed The Paintings for the Temple, af Klint continued to test the limits of her new abstract vocabulary. In these years, she experimented with form, theme, and seriality, creating some of her most incisive works.

The exhibition will run from Oct. 12, 2018, to Jan. 27, 2019.

More information about the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the exhibit can be found at the museum’s Web site.

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