Like many of his contemporaries, Leopold Survage, a Russian artist working in avant-garde circles in Paris, understood abstraction as a challenge to the static character of traditional art. “An immobile abstract form does not do much of anything,” he declared in the poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire’s journal Les Soirees de Paris. To combat this deadly fixity and to work in what he called the “mode of succession over time,” Survage prepared sheet after sheet of abstract watercolors. His first goal in these works was to “animate” his painting, his second to create an abstract color film. At the time, such a project was on the edge of technological possibility, and the film was never realized. Even so, the serial structures of Survage’s watercolors, with each image imagined as one frame in a continuous animation, introduce the dimension of time and rhythm to their colored forms.
Gallery label from Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013.