The art of Jan Schoonhoven

Upon my recent trip to LA, I found several interesting books documenting the work of Dutch artist Jan Schoohoven at MOCA. I am not somebody who steadfastly follows modern art or knows a lot of about modern art theory, but I was very drawn to this artist’s work, particularly his minimal relief wall sculpture. The following is how New York Times describes his work in a recent overview in New York,

“a Dutch artist who emerged in the postwar period and by the early 1960s was making white-on-white wall reliefs of shallow grids. Built from paper, cardboard and wood painted white, these grids dominate the show, their units square or rectangular, their perpendicular divisions thick or thin. Invariably enriched by the play of light — especially when their interior planes are slanted — they achieve both a quietly stunning variety and a sense of timelessness through utmost simplicity.” Feb, 12, 2015

It is not hard to see his art recalls the modern architectural obsession with machinic repetition. While many other artists in the same period such as Sol Lewitt or Donald Judd have also created similar work that emphasize the elegance and the power of repetition, I personally feel the painterly scale, the lightness of the material and the slight imperfection of the finishes make Jan Schoohoven’s work more fragile, endearing and humane. In modern architecture, the often relentless repetition has lent itself a more forbidding presence. The repetition of modern architecture in many instances often feel scaleless, cold and regimented. I wonder what we can learn from the quality of Schoohoven’s work in architecture.

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Jan Schoonhoven

 

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