Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Inventing Abstraction: 1910-1925

Fernand Léger, "The Discs" 1919


The MoMA show is huge. Picasso and Kandinsky open it but it quickly expands to look at the network of artists all across Europe--including America--producing abstract art. The show is organized mostly according to countries: Russia, France, Germany, Italy, England, the USA. Artists who moved to work in a foreign country are grouped with their colleagues, so the two works by Marcel Duchamp are placed with the work of Stieglitz and other Americans. I love his painting "Movement from Virgin to Bride," which counters Kandinsky's valorization of the spiritual in art with Duchamp's preference for the sensual. It was a treat to see works by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell representing England. Gino Severini is also a stand-out for me. There is a wonderfully frilly painting by Giacometti, so sensationally different from his sculptures. Best of all is the work of Fernard Léger on display. It is rhythmically vital and yet reassuringly stable. It is experimental yet traditional.

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