New York

“Neo-Plasticism in America”

Whitney Museum of American Art

In his introductory essay to a catalogue for a 1940 exhibition at his “Museum of Living Art,” by the same name, A. E. Gallatin invokes the authority of science to support his position that abstract art is both creative and progressive. Gallatin continuously describes and valorizes art in terms of “exploration and experimentation”; what the public beholds in his galleries are not merely works of art but “experiments performed in the artistic laboratory,” Furthermore, the practice of art is less a skill or technique than it is a matter of “research,” wherein artists strive “above all to obtain plastic qualities in their work.”

Gallatin’s “museum”—which, after the Société Anonyme of Katherine Dreier and Marcel Duchamp, was arguably the most influential public collection of Modern art in the United States during the early ’30s—was saturated with the ideals of a progressive, almost scientific,

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