INVENTING ABSTRACTION Exhibition Opens at MoMA Today


Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925, on view at MoMA from today, December 23, 2012, to April 15, 2013, explores the advent of abstraction as both a historical idea and an emergent artistic practice.

Commemorating the centennial of the moment at which a series of artists "invented" abstraction, the exhibition is a sweeping survey of more than 400 artworks in a broad range of mediums-including paintings, drawings, prints, books, sculptures, films, photographs, recordings, and dance pieces-that represent a radical moment when the rules of art making were fundamentally transformed. Half of the works in the exhibition, many of which have rarely been seen in the United States, come from major international public and private collectors. The exhibition is organized by Leah Dickerman, Curator, with Masha Chlenova, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art.

A key premise of the exhibition is abstraction's role as a cross-media practice from the start. This notion is illustrated through an exploration of the productive relationships between artists, composers, dancers, and poets in establishing a new modern language for the arts. Inventing Abstraction brings together works from a wide range of artistic mediums to draw a rich portrait of the watershed moment in which traditional art was wholly reinvented.

Roughly one hundred years ago, a series of rapid shifts took place in the cultural sphere that in the end amounted to the greatest rewriting of the rules of artistic production since the Renaissance. Invented not just once, but by different artists in different locales with different philosophical foundations, abstraction was quickly embraced by a post-Cubist generation of artists as the language of the modern.

One of the first pictures in the exhibition, Woman with a Mandolin, made by Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) in 1910, shows how he approached the brink of abstraction before turning away. Beginning in December 1911 and across the course of 1912, a handful of artists, including Vasily Kandinsky (Russian, 1886-1944), Robert Delaunay (French, 1885-1941), and Frantisek Kupka (Czech, 1871-1957), presented the first abstract works in public exhibition. Inventing Abstraction surveys the early history of abstraction from this pioneering moment through the mid- 1920s, when it was broadly embraced by the avant-garde.

The exhibition takes a transnational perspective, and includes work by artists from across Eastern and Western Europe and the United States, such as Hans Arp (German/French, 1886- 1966), Fernand Léger (French, 1881-1955), El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941), Kazimir Malevich (Russian, 1879-1935), Piet Mondrian (Dutch, 1872-1944), and many others.

From the start, abstraction was an international phenomenon, with ideas, images, and people traveling across borders through a new modern media and exhibition culture. Its pioneers were far more closely linked than is generally known. Highlights in Inventing Abstraction include Kandinsky's Composition V, his most ambitious early abstract work; an important sequence of Mondrian paintings that traces the development of his work from his famous Tree pictures of 1912 to a group of superb early Neo-Plastic paintings; works by Malevich documented in his display at the landmark "0.10" exhibition held in Petrograd in 1915; a group of early rare works by avant- garde artists Katarzyna Kobro (Polish, 1898-1951) and W?adys?aw Strzemi?ski (Polish, 1893- 1952), calligramme poems by Guillaume Apollinaire (French, 1880-1918), dance notations by Rudolf von Laban (Hungarian, 1879-1958) and musical scores by Arnold Schoenberg (Austrian, 1874-1951).

The Museum of Modern Art is located at 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019. Call (212) 708-9400 or visit for more information. Hours: Wednesday through Monday, 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Closed Tuesday.

Museum Admission: $25 adults; $18 seniors, 65 years and over with I.D.; $14 full-time students with current I.D. Free, members and children 16 and under. (Includes admittance to Museum galleries and film programs). No service charge for tickets ordered on Tickets purchased online may be printed out and presented at the Museum without waiting in line. (Includes admittance to Museum galleries and film programs).

Film and After Hours Program Admission: $12 adults; $10 seniors, 65 years and over with I.D.; $8 full- time students with current I.D. The price of an After Hours Program Admission ticket may be applied toward the price of a Museum admission ticket or MoMA Membership within 30 days.