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AN EYE FOR AN EAR: ART AND MUSIC IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Oskar Fischinger, Radio Dynamics, 1942. Installation view, “Visual Music,” Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, 2005. Photo: Brian Forrest.


The dark secret of high-modernist visual art and theory has always been (shhh!) sound. No surprise, then, that the twenty-first century has already brought us two major shows devoted to the connections between eye and ear in the twentieth: “Visual Music,” co-organized by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, and “Sons & Lumières” at Paris’s Centre Pompidou, both with impressive catalogues. And there have been three recent exhibitions on the dialogue between Kandinsky and Schönberg: at the Jewish Museum in New York in 2003, at the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna in 2000, and at the Beyeler Museum in Basel in 1998—not to mention a show about musical analogy in the work of Kandinsky and his circle at Madrid’s Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in 2003. (1) What does it all mean? The answer, I think, has a lot do with some

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