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Critiques of Pure Abstraction

Critiques of Pure Abstraction

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As the 20th century came to a close, Mark Rosenthal took on the extreme task of looking back on the birth and evolution of one of the most defining movements in art history in Critiques on Pure Abstraction.

Rosenthal’s essay is an endeavor to create a biography of abstraction, or as he describes it, “a totem of modernity.” He begins with its youth, seen in the works of Chagall and Delaunay, through its adolescence, as exemplified by Rauschenberg, Albers and Rothko, and into the present. It is not only a history of abstraction, but of its criticisms; from those who believe the movement has gone too far to those who believe it hasn’t gone far enough.

The text is comprehensive and compelling and the images selected create a visual history of abstraction. The chosen works map the history of abstraction in an informative way to the casual art enthusiast, the schooled art historian and those who continue to explore what abstraction has been and can become.

This exhibition includes a sampling of artists. Some practice pure abstraction but seek to reform it so as to be responsive to contemporary issues; some mock the style as if it were antiquated and senile; others investigate its basic nature. These artists’ works offer a dialogue with abstraction as well as a criticism, and both contexts are important to an understanding of them.

Rosenthal, Mark, Critiques of Pure Abstraction, Independent Curators Internationa (ICI), New York, 1995. 72 Pages. 9.8 x 9.7 inches. Softcover. ISBN: 0916365433.  $20.00