The Building Blocks Of Modern Art


Kyle Carsten Wyatt considers the modernist influence on Lego:

In 1946, [Lego creator Ole Kirk Christiansen] became the first toymaker in Denmark to buy an injection moulding machine, and began experimenting with cellulose acetate construction blocks. (Around the same time, California furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames were creating their moulded plastic and plywood chairs as low-cost alternatives to traditional wooden furniture.) Christiansen’s son Godtfred Kirk simplified his father’s brick design, perfecting its signature clutch power and switching plastics to the even more durable acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. For his colour palette, he looked to Dutch modernist Piet Mondrian’s Composition series: bright yellow, red, blue, and white. He patented the brick on January 28, 1958. …

When the poet Ezra Pound famously exhorted a generation to “make it new,” he did not mean only once. Rather, modernists set out to shape ever-new artistic forms and styles, pursuing the avant-garde as a way of asserting their autonomy over the established order. Likewise, making it new (over and over and over again) is an inextricable part of Lego’s DNA: just six two-by-four-studded pieces can be configured in 915 million ways. The Christiansens did not just revolutionize the toy world; they invented a physical lingua franca for modernism.

(Homage to Mondrian’s “Komposition mit großer roter Fläche, Gelb, Schwarz, Grau und Blau” by Flickr user Mathias)