To find future trends, simply look back – inventing abstraction exhibit at the MoMA

Inspiration is the caveot of creation.

Color and Home Trends serve as period-specific canons intended to inspire us to model after them to yes – make money – and aspire to a tasteful aesthetic….but Re-Do it Design is a blog about inspiration. I tell everyone who will listen that trends are resurrected classics that have worked before and provide a great foundation for finding your own style. Trends inspire us to reinvent convention to fit our vision of ourselves…and none of this is new…but all ideas were shining and new once upon a time. At great effort and expense, the MoMA has pulled together an amazing exhibit about one of those watershed moments in design and color history when amazing new ideas flourished, providing us with a fabulous launch point to consider the impetus of true inspiration.

I sat up the morning before New Year’s Eve and decided the path to inspiration for 2013 by climbing into the formidably colorful shoes of the experts at Pantone to imagine the task of intuiting the pulse of inspiration that will define the voice and vision a year in color and style trends. I began my quest by braving incoming traffic to Manhattan for New Year’s Eve, to attend the MoMA’s acclaimed exhibit: Inventing Abstraction.

No, don’t leave!!!! I know that abstract art can really push the boundaries of conventional understanding, and convey the impression of a less than inclusive club – but the inspiration of these revolutionaries laid the impetus for ideas that influenced everything in your closets and much of what is in your home – and these artists’ cliques were the precursor of what you know today as Facebook – really!

Don’t believe me? Click on the image below to follow the link, and mouse over the name of the trend setters of the inspirational watershed years between 1910 and 1925. Check out who had “friended” whom:

This Abstraction flowchart of ideas moving through a nexus of artists and intellectuals working in different media and in far-flung places. Its pioneers were more closely linked than is generally understood. This diagram (by the exhibition’s curatorial and design team and Paul Ingram, Kravis Professor of Business, and Mitali Banerjee, doctoral candidate, Columbia Business School) charts the relationships among the artists represented in Inventing Abstraction, all of whom played a significant role in the development of a new modern language for the arts. The vector lines connect the acquaintances within this influential group documented during these years; the names in red are those with the most “friends” within this group.

Watch this as a starting point –  the ideas shared by this first “social community” gave shape to a creative web that changed the  everything thought about style and color up to that point in time!

Although I have told you maybe a thousand times that there is almost nothing truly new in design trends, this was not the case between 1910-1925. These were new and untried creative ideas, amongst a far flung world group of “friends” who did not tweet, carry cell phones, or post their works on Facebook – yet shared, influenced and inspired a group vision.

a map of paul klee’s influence on contemporaries of the day

You may have heard of the Bauhaus school of art, even if you have not heard much about Paul Klee…we’ll get back to that…

The Paul Klee Notebooks, a collection of his Bauhaus lectures and essays on art, have been heralded as being to modern art what Leonardo’s A Treatise on Painting was to Renaissance artists.  Pantone can thank Paul Klee for sewing the seeds that grew into the refinement and standardization of color.

From Paul Klee’s notebooks on color

It was Klee who modified the circular color wheel, positioning compliments at opposing sides of the color wheel – what is so inspirational about this? This innovation is the epiphany to color that braille text was to Helen Keller, and is foundational to demonstrating that compliments or opposites of equal intensity blend at the center to create gray – the absolute neutral range in color – and much, much more.

It is not coincidental that the cheat sheet color of interior design (as you well know if you have read Re-Do it Design before) is grey….because it is truly fail-safe.

grey backdrops showcase bright color seamlessly – image via

Gray is also the color that was chosen for the wall color as you enter by The MoMa for many moments of the Inventing Abstract exhibit, providing the background that showcased the era’s revolution in color, and its signature exhibit image by František Kupka that the MoMa has used to brand the exhibit.

Localization of Graphic Motifs II. 1912–13. Oil on canvas by František Kupka is MoMA’s signature image for inventing abstraction, on loan from the National Gallery

The courageous colors colors you admire today found their roots in abstract art.

via BACHELORETTE GLAM - desire to inspire blog

via BACHELORETTE GLAM – desire to inspire blog

But all that admirable color can intimidate, too. Gray takes away the fear factor; a revelation that evolved from Klee’s organization and experimentation with principles of color theory….

A Kandinsky painting I snapped a phone image of, entering MoMA’s Inventing Abstraction exhibit – before being told there were no cameras at the show…

Grey is the only absolute neutral. Most people will tell yo that beige or tan are the most neutral shades, but that simply a misnomer. Grey has a completely equal RGB (red, green and blues in the mix) distribution, and is the only true neutral.

A painting I snapped a pic of in the Inventing Abstraction exhibit by František Kupka

As Leah Dickerman, the exhibition’s Curator at The MoMA captures in the video (above) the idea of abstraction was a big a departure in the visual language of expression as the Renaissance was to the dark ages.

So what does all this mean at day’s end to your room design?

Modern Bright on white living space showcased in Interior Design Magazine

Modern Bright on white living space showcased in Interior Design Magazine

Pretty much everything! In a world where the design revolution between 1910 – 1925 had not occurred, we might all still be sitting bolt up-right in some facsimile of a traditional Victorian parlor.

Consider a few relationships that grew from Bauhaus’s prelude to Facebook friendships….

The Bauhaus school was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar. Gropius was an architect although the Bauhaus did not even have an architecture department during the first years of its existence. But it was founded on the principle of creating a ‘total’ aesthetic and art-centric environment in which all arts, including architecture would eventually discover common ground. The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in the new (and enduring) tide of Modernist architecture and modern design.

The Bauhaus had a pivetal influence on the developments in art that followed – architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, typography, and the auto industry. The school existed in three German cities (Weimar from 1919 to 1925, Dessau from 1925 to 1932 and Berlin from 1932 to 1933), under three different architect-directors: Walter Gropius from 1919 to 1928, Hannes Meyer from 1928 to 1930 and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1930 until 1933, when the school was closed due to pressure from the Nazi regime.

Germany’s loss was our gain…

The Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House; image courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

chair by Mies van der Rohe

Mies van der Rohe, Dessau, Walter Gropius, and his protege’ Marcel Breuer who later worked on the grounds of the MoMA for a time designed and built the the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York City. Their collective modern furnishings are replicated today, and may be in some form in a room in your home….



classic Dessau

chair by Walter Gropius

These designs in turn influenced the work of Florence Knoll and Herman Miller, and … get the jist….shaping so much of what you see in today’s trends, magazines and even indirectly the aesthetic that has evolved on Pinterest.

knoll sofa re-covered in periwinkle velvet featured in elle decor magazine

Amongst the MoMA highlights, were pieces that seem like obvious inspirations for the trend focuses of 2012 and for 2013 by Pantone, in forms of Pantone’s Fashion Report and Home + Interiors.

Henri Matisse – The Dance – in pre-pantone emerald and cobalt blue

Pantone Monaco Blue

Pantone 17-5641 Emerald mini-swatchPantone Linen


emerald vignette via Lonnyny blog

emerald vignette via Lonnyny blog

Abstract inspired Greens have emerged again in the 2013color forecast.

Emerald is back - Interior Design Magazine

Emerald is back – Interior Design Magazine

the brighter tones of 2012 – 2013 are all here…

Shades of Emerald and Tangerine Tango first inspired Matisse

and the pastels of 2013…

Top Ten Pantone Women's Shades for Spring 2013

Top Ten Pantone Women’s Shades for Spring 2013

periwinkle - British HG

periwinkle – British HG

Did the abstract painters completely turn away from the impressionists vision?

A pastel detail from Monet’s Water Lilies

Maybe not…This is a a real departure from Mondrian’s blocked canvases in primary colors – inspired perhaps by Monet’s impressionist pallet? And why not – great ideas and great design have profound influence on one another, then and now.

A real departure by Mondrian’s from his signature blocked canvases

There is so much more, and there will be plenty of opportunity to continue sharing this and more inspiration for your design projects in 2013 – but I ended the day resting my tired feet at Pazza Notte for an inspired cappuccino and the best Italian meal I have had outside my own kitchen in years!

cappuccino at Pazza Notte on 56th St

Today is an excellent occasion to get inspired!