You see the co-option of the works of Piet Mondrian for commercial advertisements in many places. This motorcycle advertisement at the SouthCenter Mall in suburban Tukwila, WA uses Mondrian’s “neo-plastic” aesthetic to get its point across. Its unmistakable pattern consists of a black grid and three primary colors: red, blue and yellow.

I’ve seen Composition With Yellow, Blue and Red on Nike shoes, on Vans shoes, interior design magazines, on wine bottles, on advertisements for other artists’ work, in bathrooms, in the poultry section, and as microeconomics textbook covers. You see this on everything that tries to convey certainties in the face of many other options or possibilities. Its grid setup is so stereotypically modern, so orderly, and persuasive, like the Helvetica typeface in the documentary film Helvetica.

A good summary of Piet Mondian’s conclusions about art can be found in Yve-Alain Bois’s essay, “Mondrian and the Theory of Architecture”:

Neo-plasticism, like Russian constructivism, prepared for the end of art; later (much later Mondrian sometimes underscored) there will be no difference between the artist and the non-artist, and, in this “paradisiac” future toward which the “unshakable evolution” of humanity leads, architecture will no more exist than painting as art, as a separate activity. Architecture will be dissolved, like the other so-called plastic arts, into “architecture-as-environment.” As for the less “material” arts, said Mondrian, they will be directly “realized” in everyday life. “Music as art,” for example, “will come to an end. The beauty of the sounds around us – purified, ordered, brought into the new harmony – will be satisfying.”

Although Mondrian sounds here like the Situationists or the Alba Platformists (wait, artists with platforms?), his idea is really compatible with the exploitation of art. For example, can’t this “paradise” be realized in the reality of the late capitalist shopping mall itself? If Mondian could have been satisfied with appearances and ambiances instead of the socialization of art, then yes. The dissolving of arts into the environment, of “consumption-as-environment,” and the realization that art is not separate from the balustrade or the escalator (the architecture), and that all of these things – art, pathways, advertisements, commodities – are really just assimilated into everyday life. But not because of a plastic revolution.