Robert Mangold

Column Structure II


Not on display

Robert Mangold born 1937
Acrylic paint and charcoal on canvas
Support: 3048 × 1223 × 42 mm
Presented by the artist 2006


Column Structure II is a tall orange-coloured acrylic and charcoal painting made from six square canvas panels. Five of these canvases are joined together from top to bottom to form a narrow, vertical rectangle, while the sixth is connected to the left side of the second canvas from the top. It is unclear whether the canvases are actually joined together or just arranged together when hung. The orange surface of the painting has three curvaceous lines and a rectilinear grid pattern drawn onto it in black charcoal. Two of the curved lines run in parallel very close together, forming an arc that stretches from the bottom-centre of the painting up to the right edge of the vertical column, then over to the left side, terminating at the top left corner of the protruding canvas square. The third curved line resembles a sine wave and runs from the bottom right corner of the painting to the centre of its top edge, reaching first the left and then the right edges of the canvas as it moves up the painting. These lines intersect with the much lighter marks of the grid pattern at certain points, such as at the peaks and mid-points of the arcs and in one of the places where all of the curves meet. The paint has a relatively matt surface appearance and is in a single orange hue, although some subtle tonal variations are visible.

This work was made by the American artist Robert Mangold in New York in 2006. The curved lines were plotted out by Mangold on a smaller canvas before he drew them onto the final work in charcoal. They were drawn onto the unpainted canvases by hand, without any mechanical aids, but Mangold first pencilled on the grid pattern to facilitate this process. While most of the drawing was executed with the canvases laid horizontally, Mangold eventually placed the work vertically in order to inspect his lines. Once he had drawn the curves he painted each of the sections outlined by the grid separately, applying acrylic in several thin coats using a roller before retracing the curves to make them darker and stronger. The grid lines are less clearly visible because they sit below the surface of the paint. Mangold stated in 2009 that he used a roller to apply the acrylic paint because he ‘didn’t want to get into the kind of surface incident that comes with a brush’ (Mangold in John Yau, ‘Robert Mangold in Conversation with John Yau’, Brooklyn Rail, 6 March 2009,, accessed 10 October 2014). Discussing earlier paintings that he made using the same drawing technique, Mangold said in 2005 that when working in this way he wanted to make the curves as ‘smooth and clean’ as possible, but that where they crossed each other they often seemed to ‘bulge’, so he paid particular attention to the effect of smoothness in these areas (Mangold in Musée d’Orsay 2005, p.38).

This painting is one of a series of twelve works, called Column Structure Paintings, which Mangold produced in 2006. Between 2002 and 2004 Mangold had made a related series entitled Column Paintings. As with the Column Structure Paintings, the works in this earlier series are very tall and feature grids and wave-like lines, yet they are all rectangular in format whereas each of the Column Structure Paintings were made on supports combined to form various different shapes. While the term ‘structure’ seems to make reference to Mangold’s concern with the overall shape of the paintings, the word ‘column’ evokes a connection with architecture, which is also suggested by the very long and thin format of this painting. Mangold became well known in the mid-1960s for his Walls and Areas series, such as Red Wall 1964 (Tate T13700), which also had a relationship to the built environment, and the curator Marla Prather has noted of the Column Paintings series that these were his ‘first works since the masonite “Walls” of the 1960s that have clear architectural implications not only by way of their titles but by their form’ (Marla Prather, ‘A Curious Linkage with the Past’, in Musée d’Orsay 2005, p.19).

Mangold has noted that all of the works in the Column Paintings series make ‘an implied suggestion ... that [the curved lines] could continue through the top or bottom of the work, ascending or descending, but they are confined by the column’s sides’ (Mangold in Musée d’Orsay 2005, pp.39–40). This is equally true of the Column Structure Paintings: in Column Structure II, this combination of confinement and flowing continuity can be seen in the relationship between its rectilinear grid structure and its rounded arcs. As Mangold has observed, although the bending lines in these works have a flowing, dynamic quality, the grid also ‘allows you to see the regularity of the repeated curve. It became a kind of stabilising structure for these curving lines’ (Mangold in Musée d’Orsay 2005, p.37).

Further reading
Correspondances: Robert Mangold, Paul Gauguin, exhibition catalogue, Musée d’Orsay, Paris 2005, pp.18–21, 37–40.
Robert Mangold: Column Structure Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Pace Wildenstein, New York 2007, reproduced p.23.

David Hodge
October 2014

Supported by Christie’s.

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