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MoMA Hosts Abstract Art Exhibit

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If you're the type of person who thinks abstract art is just a random bunch of colors and shapes on canvas, a new exhibit at MoMA may make you reconsider. NY1's Stephanie Simon filed the following report.

Growing up, we're all told we must color in the lines. Well, imagine one day being told you didn't have to, you could just be creative.

OK, maybe that doesn't seem that radical now, but it was 100 years ago, and that notion brought about abstract art. Before then, it was just understood that art had to represent something.

"I think abstraction amounts to being the biggest rewriting of the rules of cultural production since the Renaissance," says Leah Dickerman, curator at the Museum of Modern Art. "It totally reorders the way art is conceived and made."

A new exhibit at MoMA explores the development of abstract art. The new show is called "Inventing Abstraction".

Dickerman says there is no one inventor. Rather, from cubism and futurism to Russian avant-garde, artists around the world began to question the notion of representational art at the same time.

"Abstraction was invented several times over by several different individuals across the period from 1911 to 12 who showed abstract pictures in public exhibitions, and they were working in different places with different philosophical foundations," Dickerman says. "But that kind of groupthink is common to many key innovations. Sociologists of science talk about the way inventors converge on the same findings about the same moment in time."

Dickerman calls this moment in time "a relay of ideas" that moved through a network of artists and intellectuals. Its impact today can be seen all around us in free-form music, installation and conceptual art, performance art, abstract film and more.

"It's so central to artistic practices today that it's hard to remember a time when that was so," Dickerman says. "But in fact, it emerged 100 years ago, quite suddenly, taking observers by surprise."

Understand and explore what was once considered artistic anarchy now through April 15. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP