May 5, 2014

Robert Mangold: Shape, Line, Light

Framed Square, blue; acrylic and black pencil on canvas.

Over many years, Robert Mangold's concerns in his paintings have stayed constant: upon a colored shape––rectangle, triangle, curve, column, or irregular figure, with two or more canvases abutting (scroll down for examples here)––lines, curved or straight, are drawn in pencil. In his recent show at Pace Gallery, Mangold developed a theme he had only touched on before: a shape within a shape, leaving an empty center. The paintings, body-sized, have a beautiful presence: classical, calm, lyrical.

Framed Square, blue detail

The translucent paint handling brings light into the paintings, as does the empty center. The lines in the works are not solely the drawn pencil lines, but also the straight, deep lines formed by joined canvases.

Framed Square, lemon yellow; acrylic and black pencil on canvas.

Lines flow in a balanced, elegant curve from corner to edge, moving outward and inward in a continuous loop. The curves change the character of the square and trapezoidal canvases; their minimalism becomes poetic.

Framed Square, lemon yellow detail

If you click to enlarge this detail, you'll see that there was uncertainty and shifting in the placement of the lines. The final painting feels very assured.

Square with Open Circle II, 2011; acrylic and black pencil on canvas.

The lines also push a balanced image, a centered open shape, into movement, as though it is caught in a net and being tugged along. In this work a single diagonal line creates a different tension.

Framed Square with Open Center III, 2013; acrylic and black pencil on canvas.

With two diagonals crossing the square, there is a greater sense of balance, even with the uneven circular lines.

Framed Square with Open Center II, 2013; acrylic and black pencil on canvas.

I enjoy looking from one painting to the next, to see how Mangold uses his lines to touch edges, bulge outward, cross each other; following the lines' flow becomes something of a visual puzzle. I am also interested in how the different colors change the mood and space of each painting. They could be metaphors for weather conditions giving rise to varying kinds of light: the soft light of fog, the bright intense light of midday sun, the half-light of dusk or dawn.

Angled Ring I, 2011; acrylic and black pencil on canvas.

Not all the paintings had their inner shapes centered; here the large circle is pushing against the leftward point.

Framed Rectangle; acrylic and black pencil on canvas.

 With a long rectangle, the lines become waves, softening the hard edges of the painting.

Installation at Pace Gallery

It seems to me that Mangold must think of Matisse in his use of line and color, and the light contained within a color. His paintings are luminous and open, and embrace the gracefulness found within geometry.


  1. Thank you for this post Altoon, I am very sorry that I missed this exhibition! The scale of this work is so perfect!


    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Grace. I agree about the scale.