“Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art”

Tate Modern
May 2–October 14

Curated by Simon Baker and Emmanuelle de l’Ecotais

Abstraction, an enduring tendency in modern art, regularly occasions historical overviews. Earlier shows debatably posited the camera’s inbuilt verism as a prompt to painters to abandon figuration, while more recent exhibitions have included scattered works in digital media. This Tate survey encouragingly finds in photographic abstraction neither a specter nor a sideline but a motive force. With more than three hundred works in painting, photography, sculpture, and prints that date from roughly 1915 to the present, this exhibition should bring forth a range of catalysts: from patterning to politics, science to synesthesia. Attention to select mid-twentieth-century European figures—Floris Neusüss and Gottfried Jäger in Germany; Luigi Veronesi in Italy; Guy Bourdin and William Klein in France—will permit a fresh perspective on a postwar history long tilted toward painting and the United States.