Kandinsky in front of his painting “Dominant Curve” (Courbe dominante, 1936) in 1936 (Photo: Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Pompidou, Paris. © Lipnitzki/Roger Violett/Getty Images)
The Guggenheim website suggests one way to view Vasily Kandinsky: Around the Circle: “Kandinsky’s work unfolds in reverse chronological order, starting with his late-life paintings and proceeding upward along the Guggenheim’s spiral ramp.” So let’s start with “Ribbon with Squares”(1944), with its wheel, ribbon, and ladder suspended against a deep purple background. Next, we get to “Dominant Curve” (1936), in which a larger green, red, and white ribbon encloses a brown and yellow centered form. Walking on, we arrive at “Upward” (1929), wherein the right half of a face set in a dark blue background recalls some works by Paul Klee, Kandinsky’s colleague at the Bauhaus. Going further up, how different is “Blue Circle” (1922), in which a triangle, a trapezoid, and a whole variety of other forms float in from the blue circle. And then there’s “Black Lines” (1913), a field a rounded green, blue, red, and white shapes linked by thin, jagged black lines. Next comes “Sketch for Composition II” (1909-10); Kandinsky is backing into abstraction in this high-pitched landscape of a horse and rider, and numerous other figures.