Reviewed by Michael Webb
In this sumptuous catalog to a landmark exhibition, MoMA curator Leah Dickerman likens the shift to abstraction that began a century ago to the rewriting of the rules of art in the Renaissance. She quotes the poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire: “Young painters of the extreme schools want to make pure painting, an entirely new art form,” he wrote in 1912. “It is only at its beginning, and not yet as abstract as it wants to be.” The shift occurred at dizzying speed. Within a few years, Picasso, Kandinsky, Malevich, Mondrian, Leger and many other artists had pushed abstraction to its limits and begun to chart its vast potential. Modernists challenged the establishment in Moscow and St Petersburg, Paris and Munich, Vienna and Zurich, even in such philistine cities as New York and London.