Abstract art has been around for about a hundred years, long enough, you would think, for it to have ceased to be an issue. Yet despite its century-old tradition, abstraction still causes consternation. Unsophisticated audiences continue to be disconcerted by the way that abstract paintings and sculptures look like nothing but themselves. What’s more surprising, some of the hippest gallery- and museum-goers are often just as disconcerted, albeit for different reasons. Abstraction’s resistance to explication disturbs many sophisticated viewers, given the present-day art world’s cherished conviction that works of art must be fully bolstered by statements of intent and elaborate iterations of generating concepts, if they are to be taken seriously. Works that at first viewing apparently refuse to be about anything but themselves and their own history are dismissed as empty, corporate, “merely” decorative, or, in some circles,...

 
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