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Inventing Abstraction 1910-1925

How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art

Leah Dickerman

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Celebrates the centennial of modernism’s most important innovation, abstraction


It was only a century ago that audiences in Europe and the United States saw their first examples of modernist abstract art. At first those examples were isolated and few - this unprecedented break with pictorial tradition demanded intense concentration and daring from the artists who made it - but they multiplied in number, variety and geographic range with extraordinary speed. Abstraction quickly established a place at the heart of modern art and transformed artistic practice for the century to come.

In celebrating this bold aesthetic adventure, Inventing Abstraction focuses on its first fifteen years, as its ideas developed and spread through an international network of modern artists. Passing not only through cities thousands of miles apart, it also reached into many media - into painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and film, into writing and the book, into music and dance. To tell the story of this watershed period, Inventing Abstraction features extensive illustrations of works in all these forms.

An introductory essay by Leah Dickerman, Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, is followed by thirty-six focused examinations of key artists, artworks, events and issues in the early history of abstraction, written by authoritative scholars in their respective fields. Combining these directed investigations with a new and original sense of abstract art as an expansive, various, yet inter-related field, Inventing Abstraction makes an outstanding contribution to its study.

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'Mammoth … one of the most conclusive surveys on the history of abstraction'

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 30.5 x 24.0 cm

Extent: 376 pp

Illustrations: 489

Publication date: 7 January 2013

ISBN: 9780500239025

About the Author

Leah Dickerman has been Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art since 2008. Her scholarship on the historical avant-garde appears in a broad range of publications. She earned her doctorate in art history from Columbia University, and has held faculty teaching positions at Stanford University and the University of Delaware.

List of Contributors

Matthew Affron, Yve-Alain Bois, Masha Chlenova, Ester Coen, Christoph Cox, Hubert Damisch, Rachael Z. Delue, Hal Foster, Mark Franco, Matthew Gale, Peter Galison, Maria Gough, Jodi Hauptman, Gordon Hughes, David Joselit, Anton Kaes, David Lang, Susan Laxton, Glenn D. Lowry