Perl writes: "As [curator Leah] Dickerman tells the story, abstract art is a prescription rather than a permission. This is a terrible mistake. She is fascinated by work by Mondrian and Malevich, where at least for a time it seems that abstraction is a way of limiting and thereby intensifying the possibilities of painting. She banishes from the exhibition Paul Klee and Joan Miró, two seminal figures whose profoundly abstract visions did not exclude 'recognizable subject matter.' What Dickerman cannot admit is that abstraction in fact released painters to approach experience in an extraordinarily wide variety of ways."
He continues: "I am left thinking about how often the will to abstraction returns us to representation of one kind or another. I am left thinking that a broader definition of abstraction—a definition that fully embraced the achievements of Miró and Klee and the later work of Kandinsky (which with its symbolic forms may strike Dickerman as insufficiently abstract)—would make it easier to see the art of the twentieth century as a whole. And I am left thinking that a more honest and inclusive view of early modernism would render irrelevant all the talk of postmodernism, because so many of the values we tend to associate with postmodernism—narrative, symbolism, heterogeneity—are in fact aspects of early modernism."
In addition to a slideshow of works from the exhibition, Gopnik posts: "At this moment we are officially in the middle of yet another abstract-art revival, according to dealers and certain writers. But the urgency that once came with abstraction has clearly disappeared. The nonfiguration that’s attempted today inevitably seems like a rehashing of the abstraction of old, or a footnote to it and ironic poke at it, or some kind of retro revisitation, akin to the Mad Men suits on today’s businessmen. It’s almost impossible to see today’s abstraction as mattering much for tomorrow’s art..."
He continues: "But it could be that to note the passing of abstraction as a form of current art is to misunderstand what mattered most about the abstract revolution in the first place: it may have been less about the 'abstract' than about 'revolution.' Its impact didn’t depend so much on the gorgeous works of art it led to as on the fact of leaving so much behind. Abstraction was the model, the test case, for art as innovation, so that almost all the radical art that came later had its roots in that moment in 1912. Readymades and monochromes, text-based art and performance, happenings and purely conceptual gestures, all depend on abstraction’s pioneering rejections of business-as-usual art. 'Abstraction unsettles more than just the fact of depiction,'says [exhibition curator Leah] Dickerman-it establishes the act of unsettling as the sign of modern thought."
Tyler Green laments the abscence of paintings by Henri Matisse in the exhibition Inventing Abstraction: 1910 - 1925 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, on view from December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013.
Green writes: "Much in the coming abstraction — in particular its bright, shining hues — is descended from Matisse... Leaving the tricky question of foundation for another time, it could be argued that Matisse pushed harder toward abstraction than Picasso did." Green convincingly cites Matisse's paintings Palm Leaf, Tangier (1912), French Window at Collioure (1914), Composition, Issy-les-Moulineaux (1915) and Shaft of Sunlight, the Woods of Trivaux (1917) as proof.
Smith writes: "By chance 'Legends' coincides with the Museum of Modern Art’s sweeping survey 'Inventing Abstraction: 1910-1925,' which traces the development of a largely geometric form of abstraction, mostly by European and Russian artists who often worked in closely related styles. In comparison the Whitney’s display might almost have been subtitled 'Inventing American Modernism, One Sensibility at a Time.' The artists here impress you as talented loners working toward diverse and much messier notions of modernity. To be sure, they take tips from European styles, but they also free themselves from such influences with highly personal responses to the sights and subjects specific to this country — the rawness of its landscapes, the tawdriness of its cities, as well as its folk art, social mores and racism. Sometimes they are working toward abstraction, sometimes not."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.