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Focus: “Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline”

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

Why is it that one comes out of “Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline” with the somewhat depressed feeling of having nothing to say, nothing in particular? Perhaps the answer lies in the program of the show, that is, in the meager hint of such a program offered by Mark Rosenthal, its curator, in the introduction to the lengthy accompanying catalogue: “My aim is to present the kind of overview of this century of abstraction that an art historian living a hundred years from now might write—that is, to imagine having the increased perspective and objectivity that time is alleged to impart to the retrospective observer.” True, Rosenthal immediately qualifies this goal (“it is impossible to pretend that complete impartiality is possible”), yet he still holds to it as the position that has, however imperfectly, governed his approach. It is thus not by chance

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