Art of the Game

AS YOU CLIMB through the Guggenheim’s current “Abstraction in the Twentieth Century” show, your mood may sink: by the top of the spiral, the nonrepresentational strategies deployed toward Modernist ends—as varied as they are many—begin to feel as exhausted as your legs. Of course, this is the old "death of abstraction’ story, in which (like its death-of-painting counterpart) the medium’s inability to engage anything but its own history, whether in the form of gestural quotation or emptied-out monochromes, is read as a sign of art’s general obsolescence. But if the show had continued to wind up through the ceiling into imaginary bays in the sky, tracking abstraction beyond art’s putative demise, what would we expect to see? One strong candidate would be the domain of computer interface design, where the language of abstraction remains alive and kicking—from Microsoft Windows to the ever-popular

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