“In weaving, the basic structure of woven material relies on a grid to materialize. The artist and weaver Anni Albers wrote in 1965:
One of the most ancient crafts, hand weaving is a method of forming a pliable plane of threads by interlacing them rectangularly. Invented in a pre-ceramic age, it has remained essentially unchanged to this day. Even the final mechanization of craft through the introduction of power machinery has not changed the basic principles of weaving. Weaving relies on a system of threads crossing each other in various ways at right angles. The grid is essential to the formation of cloth. The grid and its contemporary manifestation, the matrix, continue to influence the work of artists, especially contemporary artists that weave or use concepts of weaving in their work.”
The Grid, Weaving, Body and Mind
The art theorist Rosalind Krauss writes,
“In the temporal dimension, the grid is an emblem of modernity by being just that: the form that is ubiquitous in the art of our century, while appearing nowhere, nowhere at all, in the art of the last one. In that great chain of reactions by which modernism was born out of the efforts of the nineteenth century, one final shift resulted in breaking the chain. By ‘discovering’ the grid, cubism, de Stijl, Mondrian, Malevich . .. landed in a place that was out of reach of everything that went before. Which is to say, they landed in the present, and everything else was declared to be the past.”
“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 within 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. As such, the grid has done its job with striking efficiency. The barrier it has lowered between the arts of vision and those of language has been almost totally successful in walling the visual arts into a realm of exclusive visuality and defending them against the intrusion of speech. The arts, of course, have paid dearly for this success, because the fortress they constructed on the foundation of the grid has increasingly become a ghetto. Fewer and fewer voices from the general critical establishment have been raised in support, appreciation, or analysis of the contemporary plastic arts.”
Much emphasis has been placed on the concept of originality in art. But as Krauss points out in this article, some art forms such as photography and sculpture are not concerned with the concept of authenticity. The original work (negative or plaster) is not the final product and was never intended to be. We place more value on reproductions created closer to the “original” mold or negative and made by the artist’s own hand, but does it really matter?
Philosophers and linguists have argued that nothing exists in our consciousness unless it is named and we have a language with which to discuss it. Neither “graphic design” nor “grids” were talked about until the mid-twentieth century. Once named, complex grid structures comprising multiple columns, fields, baseline grids, and so on poured forth as never before, but it’s not true to say that designers or their predecessors—commercial artists, printers, and scribes—hadn’t been thinking about content, proportion, space, and form before this.
In order to address post-modern art an artist first needs to understand and grasp the presence and existence of modern art. b
Composition with grid ix (1919) – Piet Mondrian
Ecclesiastes 1:16-18 New International Version (NIV)
16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.