Friday, November 7, 2008

Contemporary Examples of De Stijl

I've never really understood De Stijl. I guess I should say I never knew what it was about, nor did I do research to find out what it was about. I've always enjoyed the work of Piet Mondrian, but never had that "Oh, now I get it moment" until we looked at this movement in class. De Stijl was an attempt at creating universal harmony, order and peace. Strong horizontals and verticals were used along with the primary colors of red, yellow and blue. In De Stijl design, everyone is on the same playing field – it is universal and objective and does not apply to one specific social class. This design aesthetic has been consistently reproduced throughout the years. A few examples are below:

The image to the left is from a Wayerhaeuser paper catalog that I either picked up at a paper show or received in the mail at some point in time. In any case, I liked the piece enough that I saved it. I've always enjoyed this image. This person's "art car" almost seems to be too busy to fit into the De Stijl movement, however it fits the guidelines of strong horizontals and verticals, along with use of primary colors, black and white. The layout of the catalog definitely fits the bill as images are sparse, and a definite grid is followed. But then again, looking at the Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie (second on the left), it doesn't seem to be a bit too busy.

This is a spread from the most recent Veer catalog. It says, "Nowadays everything has to be cool... They need to be... Bauhaus. Modernism... Clean living under German aesthetics. Less is more." The influence of De Stijl is once again obvious. Even the type is acting as a strong horizontal form.

Next is an example of De Stijl in architecture. There is a house in Kirkwood that is the perfect contemporary example. I'd love to take photo of it and post it here, but I'm not sure if that's okay to do, so I won't. The house is similar to the image on the left, the Schroder House by Gerrit Rietveld. It is white, with accent colors of blue, red and yellow, and is based on the shape of the square. It features several small square windows, is two levels like the one on the left, and has a balcony similar to this one. The garage is detached and built to match the house. Even details down to the mailbox and house number sign are built under the same aesthetic.

The last example I have is one of the pieces in the 2001 "Suite Home Chicago: An International Exhibition of Street Furniture" exhibit. I have been searching for the photo, it's around somewhere. I had it hanging on a bulletin board for the longest time. When I find it I will scan it and post it here. I was hoping to be able to find an image of the particular piece online, but have been unable to do so. If you remember the "Suite Home Chicago" exhibit, you'll remember it consisted of furniture pieces, that had been painted/sculpted by artists, similar to when they had the "Cows on Parade" exhibit. The piece that I wanted to mention is called Mon Divan and was done by the Chicago photographer, Victor Skrebneski. You can tell by the name of the piece that it is based on Piet Mondrian. It consists of two divans stacked vertically and painted white with blocks of red, yellow and blue, with black horizontal and vertical lines.

Graphic Design A New History, Eskilson

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I enjoyed your article about De Stijl, and was wondering if you could direct me to any publication or *fingers crossed* any digital online collection of De Stijl graphic design. The U. of Iowa has many issues of the actual journal "De Stijl" but, aside from the front cover, the journals themselves don't present much in the way of De Stijl graphic design. I have seen the "Dutch Modern" book, but it just sort of lumps all the De Stijl matter in with Art Deco, etc. It's more about things that are Dutch than it is about any one period, which would be fine if there were some attempt to inform about each period as it went along, but alas... Anyway, any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.
Quentin Daniels