" Order can serve as a metaphor for order."
Gombrich: The Sense of Order, p. 247.
Note that for Gombrich the notion of "order" has
a positive charge: harmony, equilibrium, everything in its
proper place. Since Ludwig Boltzmann, however, this Aristotelean
notion has lost its validity. Today, order is forced, authoritarian,
"In the early part of this century there began
to appear, first in France and then in Russia and in Holland,
a structure that has remained emblematic of the modernist ambition
in the visual arts ever since. Surfacing in pre-War cubist painting
and subsequently becoming ever more stringent and manifest, the
grid announces, among other things, modern art's will to silence,
its hostility to literature, to narrative, to discourse."
"It is not just the sheer number of careers that
have been devoted to the exploration of the grid that is impressive,
but the fact that never could exploration have chosen less fertile
ground. As the experience of Mondrian amply demonstrates, development
is precisely what the grid resists. But no one seems to have been
deterred by that example, and modernist practice continues to
generate ever more instances of grids."
"In the spatial sense, the grid states the
autonomy of the realm of art. Flattened, geometricized, ordered,
it is antinatural, antimimetic, antireal. It is what art looks
like when it turns its back to nature. In the flatness that results
from its coordinates, the grid is the means of crowding out the
dimensions of the real and replacing them with the lateral result
not of imitation, but of aesthetic decree. Insofar as its order
is that of pure relationship, the grid is a way of abrogating
the claims of natural objects to have an order particular to themselves;
the relationships in the aesthetic field are shown by the grid
to be in a world apart and, with respect to natural objects, to
be both prior and final."
". . . the bottom line of the grid is a
naked and determined materialism. But (. . .) that is not the
way that artists have ever discussed it. (. . .) Mondrian and
Malevich are not discussing canvas or pigment or graphite or any
other form of matter. They are talking about Being or Mind or
"The grid's mythic power is that it makes
us able to think we are dealing with materialism (or sometimes
science, or logic) while at the same time it provides us with
a release into belief (or illusion, or fiction)."
From: Rosalind Krauss: "Grids" October 9,
Summer 1979. [Eduardo Navas put a cut-up
version of this essay online in his project "Grids".]
"It's supposed to be indexical of all that
is rational, but I think it's as mad as many logical things turn
out to be artificial, hysterical, subsuming its own version
of chaos. It's rigid but flexible, a measure of scale but scaleless,
it's flat with imitations of depth, democratic about space but
really absolutist, stamped with rigidity but alert with permutational
virtuosity. It's a container that contains itself, that is both
form and content."