Premature Promises

Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie-Woogie (1942)

Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie-Woogie (1942)

Piet Mondrian’s painting, like the genre he alludes to, makes a promise of happiness grown out of his forms that it can’t keep—at least not yet. Gestures dancing around form give only a glimpse of what might be possible beyond the borders of the work, even though they themselves don’t know that the boundary they walk is still subsumed under an unfree world.

Even our reactions to the art are false, and we know it. Who hasn’t felt like a fool standing before a painting, or shaking on a crowded dance floor? My question is not meant to embarrass the viewer, listener, or dancer. In the social situation of art in different forms, one finds a peculiar distance between how one feels and how one wants to feel. The viewer is alienated from his own thoughts—from himself.

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