Vaslaw Nijinski, Untitled (Arcs and Segments: Lines), 1918-19, crayon and pencil on paper, 11 1/4 x 14 3/4 inches (Stiftung John Neumeier)
A blog post asserting a true commonality shared by the artists included in Inventing Abstraction: 1910 - 1925 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, on view through April 15, 2013.
The show's "biggest achievement is that it brings together the main narratives of early twentieth-century Modernism while also casting light onto lesser known artists and works. By doing so the show emphasizes the creation of art works as a result of intersecting ideas, inventions, practices and individual biographies. These artists worked to understand what possibilities abstraction in art could open. Abstraction was neither a goal nor a uniform phenomenon... Inventing Abstraction is not about arriving at a final state or drawing a conclusion. Abstraction was never meant to be finished or concluded. Abstraction (hopefully) resonates with a part of us that welcomes all suspension of ideologies and beliefs. Abstraction is a long-term project, acutely relevant and still nourishing today’s paintings - no matter if they are made of air or soil."
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."
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.
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."
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.