I’m pretty fascinated by Museum of Modern Art curator Leah Dickerman’s fantastic exhibition “Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925.” Dickerman was a guest on The Modern Art Notes Podcast, I’ve written about some artists whose absence from her narrative both interested and puzzled me, and for a couple months now I’ve been spending stolen moments with the exhibition’s best-of-the-best catalogue.
Part of what I love about the show is that it is a thoughtful historical investigation of what happened, of how something — abstract art — came to be. There is, of course, no one answer. Dickerman’s show proposes a series of paths. Over the last couple decades other historicizing group shows have done the same, as does this Hilma af Klint retrospective, which is now at the Moderna Museet (which may come to the US).
In this month’s Modern Painters I take an aspect of Dickerman’s show that I don’t think has received enough attention and try to begin unpacking how it happened:
The great paradox of … “Inventing Abstraction 1910-1925: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art,” is that it starts with a brown monochrome of a Picasso and then the exhibition explodes with color. How did that happen and how did artists transit from the nearly colorless cubism of Picasso and Braque to the intense colorful abstractions of Vasily Kandinsky, Frantisek Kupka and others?
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