A revelation of an exhibit: don’t miss Inventing Abstraction at MOMA.

I can’t remember the last time I was whiplashed (in a good way) by a brilliant museum show.  Alas, I never studied art history.  So I never gave much thought to the question of how we got from Vermeer to Mondrian.  It is a revelation to think about how abstraction is rooted in the context of a world war, the velocity and wizardry made possible by technology, and the historical coincidence of an artistic community sharing ideas and exploding with wit and brilliance in painting, photography, film, dance, music, and literature.

And there’s the evolution of multimedia — Duncan Grant setting his scrolled art work to the Brandenburg Concerto.  Apollinaire’s poetry in specialized devised fonts and book designs. Marcel Duchamp experimenting with gyrating installations.

And don’t miss the MOMA’s fabulous interactive connectors of the artists themselves, great fun to play with.  Reminds me of my favorite word site, the Visual Thesaurus, which I have loved for a decade or more.

If I had a quibble, it was only that the insightful, challenging curatorial captions were placed too low.  I prefer the Met’s large overview stenciled wall introductions for each room (there must be a museumspeak for that, but I don’t know it!) to the MOMA’s style, which results in knots of people hovering uncomfortably over small wall spaces.  Oh, and the exhibition book is $70.

The exhibit was the beginning of a darned near perfect New York City evening, as we went from there to see Zero Dark Thirty.  Almost all the other characters seem blurry and almost commoditized — the CIA colleagues, the SEALs, the locals, the terrorists — which makes Jessica Chastain’s performance all the more incandescent.

Dinner at Cafe Fiorello never disappoints.  With a holiday weekend stretching out before me, and then vacation, I could almost believe that a peaceful 2013 may lie ahead.

 

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