Art: One Explanation

More & more U.S. painters are turning to abstract art. Many are trained, honest men who have already made reputations with pictures of recognizable things. Yet to most Americans, their abstract work is messy and meaningless—an energetic mishmash of blobs and squiggles. Why do they do it?

Last week an ex-conservative named Philip Guston gave an answer of sorts. Painter Guston's reputation is solidly based on complex still lifes and figure paintings. His tame, placid portrait of a plump-armed girl won top honors at the 1945 Carnegie exhibition of U.S. painting. Three years ago, Guston turned his back on easy success, joined...

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